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Comparing Caen International Cemeteries

On our last day in Caen, we began a day with a visit to the Normandy beaches where long ago so many men gave their lives in service to their country. The blood that was spilled on those beaches did not come from a single country, so when we went to international cemeteries hosting the remains of those soldiers, we ended up making multiple trips. The first of those trips had us visit the cemetery for American soldiers. This cemetery was made with a clear purpose: to honor and celebrate the American soldiers who gave their lives while helping liberate France. We entered the cemetery in an area dedicated to those soldiers whose remains were unable to be found, but who the French felt deserved a spot of honor even if it could not be among their fellow fallen soldiers. Moving into the cemetery, there were statues that along with the crosses and stars used as headstones brought immediate adoration to the effort taken for these foreign soldiers. The cemetery seems designed to construct a memorial which shows a very positive, celebratory memory of the soldiers who gave their lives in France.

Later on in the day, we encountered a cemetery which felt as though it was trying to invoke a different memory in those who visited: the cemetery for German soldiers that died in France. When entering this cemetery, instead of a wall of names celebrating the soldiers who were unable to be found, we entered single-file into a somber room before arriving at the actual grave site. Inside the grave site itself, instead of the standing stars and crosses, each of the German soldiers within was represented by a plaque set within the ground. Where the crosses and stars seemed to demand attention, the plaques were so low it was as though they were hiding from it. For statues, the only thing in the German cemetery was a Father and Mother figure beside a cross, representing the parents that each of the soldiers had. While the German cemetery was built to house the fallen soldiers just as the American cemetery was, as a memorial site it seems to beg a different feeling, a different memory of these soldiers. They are not to be forgotten, but there is a shame that comes with the side that they were on during the war. Both of these sites want visitors to remember the soldiers they house, but each of them for their own reasons.