Cerny-en-Laonnois village on the Chemin des Dames

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery is located in the village of Cerny-en-Laonnois, on the Chemin des Dames Plateau.

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery
An army of black sentinels guarding the burial ground

The village spreads at the crossroads of the D18CD and the D967, the road that links the city of Laon to Château-Thierry.

From this spot you can clearly see the steeples of the cathedrals of Soissons, Laon and Reims in the distance.

Cerny-en-Laonnois was located in the sector where the Battle of the Chemin des Dames was fought during WWI.

It was completely destroyed, along with the 18 other villages and hamlets that stood on the plateau.

The whole area was declared as Red Zone after the war.

The village was rebuilt in 1924, however, a few hundred meters from its original location.

The Memorial of the Chemin des Dames was built and two war cemeteries were open in the village, after the war.

The village of Cerny-en-Laonnois is therefore a Site of Remembrance.

Cerny-en-Laonnois German war cemetery

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery was open between 1924 and 1925.

It is located a little away from the road, on land adjacent to the French War Cemetery.

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery
Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery

The two cemeteries are directly linked.

There is indeed no boundary between them.

They are along the D18CD, opposite the Chapel-Memorial and the Lantern of the Dead.

The German government founded the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (VDK) on December 16, 1919.

The role of this official department was to create, then maintain the German war graves.

The crosses initially placed on the graves were replaced with masonry crosses after 1928.

You can enter the Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery by walking through the French war cemetery.

You can also walk along the lane bordered by tall cypress that runs outside the French cemetery.

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery contains the remains of 7519 German soldiers.

They fell during the offensive of Autumn 1914, April -May 1917 and September – October 1918.

These men belonged to regiments originating from Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony, Württezmberg, Schleswig-Holstein and Western Prussia.

Forty-six out the 3533 soldiers buried in individual graves, were buried in anonymous graves.

The bones of the others, who could not be identified, were placed in the ossuary.

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery is very understated.

Graves are placed under anthracite-grey stone crosses.

Try to visit the cemetery in the morning, when the sun rises behind the cemetery.

The effect is quite surrealist!

The crosses indeed stand out against the light and appear to form an army of black sentinels guarding the burial ground.

The cemetery is planted with trees that provide a natural setting conducive to contemplation and meditation.

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery
Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery

This setting takes its roots in the cult of the Dead in Germanic mythology.

The deceased were indeed buried on the edge of a forest because the shade of the trees helped them find the path to eternal rest and the Warriors’ Paradise.

It seemed as if these ‘black sentinels’ make sure the dead German soldiers of WWI find the path…

Among the graves, you’ll find 12 Jewish tombstones.

They are inscribed in Hebrew and bear the Star of David.

Many are topped with a pebble.

This is an Ashkenazi custom that originated in Palestine.

The stones indeed marked the presence of a soul.

They also reminded the family of the place of burial of their beloved ones.

Cerny-en-Laonnois German War Cemetery was fully renovated and the access lane improved in 1974.

It was also enlarged in order to receive additional graves.

Department of Aisne – Picardie region
Coordinates: Lat 49.441734 – Long 3.665088

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