While in Crete I took the opportunity to visit the German Military Cemetery of Maleme where 4,465 German soldiers, who were killed in Crete between 1941 and 1945, are buried. The German invasion and occupation of Crete was brutal, and there is no attempt to hide this by the Volksbund (German War Graves Commission) at the site. It is a peaceful place, and is well kept by the Volksbund. Many of the graves are of unknown soldiers, but most have names and ranks.
The invasion of Crete by German paratroopers on 20th May 1941, did not go well on the first day and many were killed before they fired a shot. So many of the grave markers had the date of death as 20th May, 1941. It is also striking to see that so many of the dead were very young - teenagers and many in their early twenties. What did they die for?
In 2008 I visited the La Cambe German War Cemetery in Normandy where there are 21,000 soldiers buried. As in Maleme, it too was well kept and is a serene and calm place. In both cases, there were very few people visiting the cemeteries (in complete contrast to the American Cemetery and Memorial, at Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy where there were thousands visiting when I was there). It must be hard for the German people of today to take in what happened to their menfolk in World War II. Many of the young boys/men in Maleme and La Cambe could still be alive today 80 years later had war not happened. I left both cemeteries with an overwhelming sense of waste of life and sadness for what might have been for the young men who lost their lives on both sides in the war.
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