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The Main Cemetery of Dortmund

In this article I would like you to tell about the cemeteries in Dortmund and especially about victims of two World Wars. I am also going to describe their lives and journey during their forced displacement to Germany.

Let`s start with some basic information: 11.710 are registered in Dortmund as war dead people during World War I and World War II. They are buried in altogether 44 cemeteries. Some people still ask themselves if here are lying other dead bodies somewhere in the ground because there were also cases where ramblers accidentally found some. Bochum, Dortmund and Essen were the main cities where they worked at steel plants and in coal mines. They were very important for the German military and the Allies wanted to destroy them. That’s why these three cities were their top priority goals to bomb.

At first I’d like to show you how it actually looked like in Dortmund before world war. Maybe you know or not, Dortmund was a really dirty city because here people were working in coal mines and you can imagine how awful it looked like when the smoke and other dirt was flying around the sky and city. The workers and their families wore untidy and dirty clothes and everything was grey. Now imagine you are a boy born in this dust and your dad keeps telling you that one day you will also be working in this factory and actually be having the same way of life that he does. Of course you could get used to this and start to think that it is normal. Girls and women didn’t work in factories because somebody had to cook and do the laundry. Another reason why women were not encouraged to do what they wanted to was the fact that they hadn’t got equal rights with men. So that’s how people saw life and thought it was good for them. During World War I something changed. People were afraid that they might become victims of the war and they had to work harder and better in factories. The point is that many young men were taken to military bases where they had been trained how to become soldiers. As a result fewer workers could work in factories and there was more time pressure than before. I don’t know how about you but I think that the workers there got more stress than ever and the only solution out of this was to employ more workers. The fact is that during World War I and World War II, Germany occupied a lot of countries. As a result the people that lived in the occupied countries became prisoners of war and they were forced to do hard work in the factories or do other dirty jobs. Those people were really feeling lonely in Germany where they had been brought to work actually as slaves.

The best way to understand how they felt is just to try to empathize with the victims. In present times we luckily aren’t in a war so we need to make up a situation where we might be in a big danger and are scared. Can you do it? The first idea that may suddenly come up to you is to travel to another country, without knowing its language and without being able to say goodbye to your family and friends. It`s unbelievable how much pain and unease people had to deal with, isn’t it? In your new country nobody cares about you and you feel lonely. You miss your family, your friends; you just want to turn time back and change everything but it’s impossible. You become a free prisoner in your own prison where you haven’t got any right. You feel how anger and upset fill up your broken heart and you become angry. Maybe you decide to kill somebody or demonstrate but the next day people would just kill you and you are gone. You accept after some time that you are a slave. The only way to survive is to obey the new rules and learn as fast as possible the language to understand what people want you to do. Of course you do find some new friends but you know that it is not a true friendship and you still feel the fear by going through a street because you know that the other see an enemy in you. That’s how people lived during World War I and World War II until on the 13th April 1945 the Americans occupied Dortmund and altogether 4.070 humans from 13 nations were liberated. Some of the war victims stayed here in Germany and others moved away.

We went to the main cemetery of Dortmund to think about the people who became victims. By entering the cemeteries we saw a lot of monuments which are addressed to the prisoners of war. It’s written there about the powerful spirit and heroism of the victims. Even their graves have got written messages telling about their brave. The “Europe school” from Dortmund did a project about the victims by finding out their names and also their birth and death years. So as you can see that this theme is still popular and important to all of us.

Martina Schröder

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