Marigny German Cemetery – Cimetière Militaire Allemand – Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof – 1939-45
Marigny German Cemetery is located in the outskirts of the town of La Chapelle-en-Juger, to the west of Saint-Lô.
Many of the 11.172 soldiers buried there belonged to the Panzer-Lehr Division.
Allied bombing almost wiped out the Division during the Battle of St-Lô on July 25, 1944.
Over 2,000 allied bombers indeed launched a massive air raid between St-Lô and Périers (farther west) in order to break the German lines.
The American Infantry managed to dismantle the first German lines despite the counter-attack of the Panzer Division.
They then progressed towards La Chapelle-en-Juger, where they linked up with other regiments.
The German survivors withdrew to Marigny, where they put up a fierce resistance.
However, the 3rd Armoured tanks and Infantry defeated them the next day.
La Chapelle-en-Juger was reduced to a pile of rubble, but was free!
This attack was part of the Operation Cobra-La Percée, the great break through the Cotentin Peninsula conducted by the U.S. troops from July 25 to 31, 1944.
Marigny, a temporary American war cemetery
The Americans initially opened a temporary cemetery in Marigny.
The war over, they wanted to give a decent burial to their soldiers who fell while making a breakthrough the Norman bocage (Hedgerow Battle) and in particular during the Battle of St-Lô.
In the late 1940’s they therefore transferred the remains of their 3070 soldiers in the war cemeteries they opened in Normandy.
Once the remains transferred, they erected a memorial stone by the cemetery entrance.
This monument pays tribute to the soldiers of the VIIth American Corps placed under the command of General Collins.
Marigny German Cemetery – A permanent German war cemetery
The cemetery was then given to the German government in order to give a decent burial to the German who died during the Battle of Normandy.
Similarly to the French and Allied Forces, many Germans had initially been hastily buried in field graves and small cemeteries scattered across the Cotentin Peninsula.
Their remains were exhumed and grouped in Marigny German Cemetery between 1959 and 1961.
The Volksbund DeutscheKriegsgräberfürsorge (German War Graves Commission) was founded in 1919 in order to look after all the graves of German soldiers who fell on foreign soil.
The daily maintenance of Marigny German Cemetery is the responsibility of the Service d’Entretien des Sépultures Militaires Allemandes (German Military Burials Maintenance Service).
Virgin supporting the Christ in his Descent from the Cross
A Norman chapel serves as entrance-exit gate to the cemetery.
The dedication written on the information board by the entrance lead us all to reflect:
Les morts de ce cimetière exhortent à la paix!
The Dead of the Cemetery urge us to reflect on Peace!
Die Toten in diesem Friedhof Drang nach Frieden!
The other words that come to mind are ‘Mercy and Forgiveness’.
The chapel, set up in the ground floor of the tower, opens onto a paved courtyard.
A mosaic, depicting the Virgin supporting the Christ in his Descent from the Cross, adorns its back wall.
A wide and blind corridor serves as information hall.
It contains a Remembrance Book and a board that shows the layout of the cemetery.
Rigor and simplicity of the cemetery
What immediately strikes, when entering Marigny German Cemetery, is the rigor, simplicity, tidiness, sobriety yet elegance of the place.
It consists of a huge lawn planted with oak trees.
This natural setting has a cultural background that originates from the Cult of the Dead in the Germanic mythology.
Warriors’ graves were traditionally placed on the edge of a forest in order to provide the necessary shade to the Dead’s eternal rest, and allow them to enter the Warriors’ Paradise.
Alleys cross at right angles and divide the 4-hectare cemetery into a series of small square plots.
Terra-cotta slab mark each double-grave and bear the name of two soldiers, their rank and dates of birth and death.
Each year, Germany now sends young soldiers in order to replace the old slabs which were placed directly on the ground.
The new tombstones are indeed raised and create a nice perspective.
The graves are aligned in double rows, and until a few ago were delineated by beds of St John’s Wort.
The golden colour of the flowers beautifully stood out against the green of the lawns and trees.
The plants unfortunately caught a disease and were removed.
Three Crosses of local grey schist stand every 10th grave; two smaller Crosses frame the central one.
This sobriety seems to symbolize the forgiveness sought by those who fiercely fought to the death and lie today in this cemetery.
It is very moving to read the inscriptions of the slabs, as the average age of these soldiers was about 20.
Too few visitors come here sadly, because this cemetery is located too far inland, too far from the landing beaches.
Putting a face on a name
However, here and there you finds a potted flower, a bunch of faded flowers, a candle or a wreath.
A tribute from distant relatives.
One of the most moving moments is when you discover the photo of a young soldiers, who died 70 years ago.
The anonymity of a name and dates of birth and death became suddenly obsolete.
You are now able to add a face to the name engraved on the slab.
Like any other soldier, he was the son, husband, father, brother, lover, companion or friend of someone who probably never recovered from the loss.
Soldiers of all ranks and all ages were buried side by side, all equals in Death.
The youngest soldier buried in Marigny German Cemetery was not even 15 years old.
A number of German soldiers could not identified .
You’ll therefore comes across many slabs engraved with these simple words: Zwei Deutsche Soldaten (Two German Soldiers).
Among those who have a name is Wilhelm Lubrich, a Polish soldier who had to fight in the German army.
General Erich Marcks’ grave
General Erich Marcks (June 6, 1891 – June 12, 1944) who was immortalized in the film The Longest Day is among the soldiers buried in Marigny German Cemetery.
He was convinced, unlike the other Wehrmacht officers, that the Allies would land in Normandy.
Marcks celebrated his 53rd birthday on D-Day – June 6, 1944.
He was mortally wounded on June 12 during the aerial bombing of Saint-Lô.
His remains were placed among the German soldiers who fell with him during the Battle of Normandy.
Here is a war poem by Seigfried Sassoon
When you are standing at your hero’s grave,
Or near some homeless village where he died,
Remember, through your heart’s rekindling pride,
The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.
Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done;
And you have nourished hatred harsh and blind.
But in that Golgotha perhaps you’ll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son.
Department of Manche – La Chapelle-en-Juger – D341 – Rue du Cimetière Allemand
Coordinates: Lat 49.112809 – Long -1.234783