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December 2007 - Nr. 12


The Editor
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Herwig Wandschneider
K-W & Beyond
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ROM 2007/2008
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Volkstrauertag 2007 in Kitchener

by Herwig Wandschneider

Herwig WandschneiderAs always on the 3rd Sunday in November, the Volkstrauertag was held again this year at the site of graves of German soldiers, buried here at the north-east corner of Woodland Cemetery in Kitchener.

Gerhard Griebenow chairs the proceedings   [photo: Herwig Wandschneider]Gerhard Griebenow, Chair of the Co-operative Council of German Canadian Clubs of Waterloo Region and the principal of the German Language School Concordia, guided the 500-600 participants through the ceremony on this cold but sunny day. He explained that Kitchener - and specifically Woodlands Cemetery - was chosen by the German War Graves Commission, in cooperation with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as the site of the graves for 188 German Soldiers, who lost their lives in various Canadian Graves relocated to Woodland CemeteryPOW from injuries sustained during the two World Wars. These graves were thus re-established here - in rows just behind a huge cross and flag poles - individually identified with their names engraved on white crosses and could be carefully maintained.

The Federal Republic lays a wreath   [photo: Herwig Wandschneider]This site at Woodland Cemetery now serves as the prime venue in Canada for remembrance of the dead of the two world wars on the day of the German Volkstrauertag. Since the first ceremony in 1971, people gather here annually to commemorate the dead of the two World Wars and subsequent wars, and today also commemorate the ever increasing number of victims of intolerant regimes and those who suffer torture and inhumane indignities at the hands of tyrants and terrorists in this world.

A wreath by Kitchener's Mayor Carl Zehr   [photo: Herwig Wandschneider]As in previous years, the ceremony began with the Transylvania Brass Band conducted by Jerimy Frim, and the Concordia Choirs, conducted by Dr. Alfred Kunz, followed by prayers by Pastor Manfred Strauss of Martin Luther Evangelische Kirchengemeinde, Kitchener. Mr. Griebenow and Mrs. Stefanie von Oppenkowski, Deputy Consul General of Toronto representing the Federal Republic of Germany, then addressed the participants recounting the history and tragedies represented by this Memorial. The Consul General of Toronto, Holger Raasch, was in Germany at the time and thus unable to attend.

Tony Bergmeier & Dr. Ulrich Frisse for the German Canadian Congress   [photo: Herwig Wandschneider]The ceremony then proceeded with the laying of the wreaths, beginning with the Federal Republic of Germany, then German and Canadian veterans, Canadian Federal, Provincial and local Government representatives, and finally German associations and clubs from Waterloo Region, from Toronto, various Southern Ontario cities and from private individuals.

The wreaths   [photo: Herwig Wandschneider]Pater Martin Jacek Mikulski of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church said the final moving prayer. The ceremony concluded with "Ich hatte einen Kameraden" and "Zapfenstreich", played by the Transylvania Brass Band.

As always many of the participants gathered for a social hour of ample coffee and cake, this time in Concordia Club’s Main Hall, which required a modest $2 to defer some of the expenses. The major portion was sponsored by the Concordia Club and by the Co-operative Council of German-Canadian Clubs. This gathering serves to recover somewhat from the feelings of sadness and depressing memories that are always generated by the moving ceremony. And of course it is very pleasant to come in from the cold to gather around coffee and cake and share ones feelings and memories.


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