Contemporary history of Luxembourg

Between fulfilling the legal mandate and clarifying the fate of dead soldiers of World War II - The efforts of a private association to exhume and identify German war dead

Over one million German military dead of the Second World War are missing. The private association VDK Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. (VDK) is, as the German War Graves Commission the official representative of the German government responsible for the localisation and exhumation of German military graves, the identification of the dead, the reburial and the maintenance of military cemeteries worldwide. More than 75 years after the end of the violent conflict, the VDK has completed its work in Western Europe, but has continued its systematic search for graves and remains of German Wehrmacht soldiers in Eastern Europe, especially in the Russian Federation. The paper presents the localisation, recovery and identification of remains and uses a case study in Russia to discuss the complexity of German remains both in German society and politics and in the host country Russia. The difficulty in dealing with dead bodies marked as perpetrators and held responsible for inhumane crimes is only one challenge for the VDK. In addition, the paper reviews the hesitant use of DNA identification, the lack of interest in clarifying the fate of MIA soldiers in German post-war politics and the existing resentment towards Nazi dead, which delays or ignores the forensic processing of German war dead.

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