Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The American Kindergraves



From 1952 to 1971, 451 American babies who died at birth or right after at the American military hospital near Kaiserslautern (Landstuhl and other civilian hospitals) were buried in the Kaiserslautern main cemetery.
These were children of parents stationed in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. At that time assistance from the government or the Red Cross was not available to transport the children to the United States for a stateside burial.
During those years, the city of Kaiserslautern donated use of public burial plots, while local groups associated with the military community maintained the sites. One of them being the German-American Women’s Club. They knew of the graves and maintained them from early on.
In the 80’s, the initial lease on the burial spot was expiring and the remains of the American babies would be removed to make room for cemetery expansion. The women’s club was determined to save the children’s graves and appealed to the local Air Force base legal office for help.
After German authorities realized how serious the women’s club was about keeping the graves, cemetery management agreed to allow a private organization affiliated with the military to assume responsibility for the gravesites. The Ramstein Area Chief’s Group (US Air Force E-9’s) assumed this role.
The Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation (KKMF) was established in 1986 and its purpose is to maintain the memorial site, organize ceremonies in remembrance of the children and answer any family inquires. Representatives from the Ramstein Area Chief's Group and the German-American Women's Club serve as co-chairs for the foundation.
The KKMF receives no funding from the US government. The upkeep of the Kindergraves is possible through donations of the local community and volunteers to do year round maintenance.  
One woman, Bruni, that I’ve become friends with in the Women’s Club is the chairperson for the graves within the club. She took me to see the graves the other day and explain what she does.
First, this cemetery is beautiful. It’s unlike American cemeteries in that each burial area is slightly bigger and is more than just a headstone. It’s like a remembrance garden that people have created for their loved ones. Each one is different and unique and beautiful.
We visited the Kindergraves and cleaned them up a bit, getting rid of leaves and over run plants as Bruni told me one beautiful story.
One year a man and his parents were travelling through Europe from the states, when he read about the Kindergraves online. He contacted Bruni through the women’s club website. His brother had been buried there before he was born when his parents were stationed in Germany in the 60’s. Bruni brought him and his parents to see the gravesite. It was the highlight of his mother’s trip. To see the gravesite of the baby she lost so many years before, and how beautifully it was being cared for.
This is just another reason I am so happy to have found this women’s club. They truly do embody a group of people determined to bring the German and American people together. Bruni says her favorite is when the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group sends it’s volunteer soldiers out to do weed whacking, grass trimming, and gardening. The Germans at surrounding sites will come tell her how nice all the Americans are and how great it is to see them helping out.
Below are some pictures of what the site currently looks like. Bruni and I went to the city’s flower shop afterwards to order spring flowers for the annual memorial they have for the Kindergraves on Mother’s Day.







2 comments:

  1. Hey! I found your blog through the expatblogs.com, and I thought I'd see if you have any travel tips for Germany. I'm also from Colorado, and I'm going to be in Germany for a week in September. Do you have any suggestions of the best places to visit? I know we'll barely scratch the surface in a week, but any advice you have would be great!
    Here's my facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/katie.langford.37
    Thanks!
    Katie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! I just sent you a pm through Facebook! I would love to help you out.

      Thanks, Melissa

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