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German Town Restores Cross to Irish WWI Dead

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German Town Restores Cross to Irish WWI Dead

Post  9459 RDF on Thu Nov 08, 2012 9:08 am



by James Scannell
In November 2007 the German town of Dietkirchen restored and rededicated a Celtic cross erected in May 1917 to the memory of 45 World War I Irish soldiers who died in a prisoner of war camp which lay between this town and Limburg in western Germany. No trace remains today of the 24 hectare camp which held up to 12,000 prisoners of war. It’s believed that the soldiers died from a combination of battle injuries or disease in the camp with most of the remains being removed and interred in other military cemeteries.

The 3 metre high Celtic sandstone cross, one of the few of its kind in mainland Europe, had deteriorated significantly due to 90 years of weather exposure and was in a very fragile condition before the decision to restore it was taken. The local community held Irish folk festivals and concerts and raised Stg £7000, the Royal Munster Fusiliers Association and other military associations raised a further Stg £7000 and the Irish Government contributed Stg £3500. During the summer the cross was restored in situ, cracks were filled in and concealed with a special sandstone compound to match the colour of the original. The names of the 45 soldiers engraved at the base of the cross had become totally illegible and have now been re-entered on a new bronze plaque. The first name on the plaque is 40 year old Frederick Kelly, the first man to die in the camp on 20 December 1914 and recently the Dietkirchen authorities have named a new street overlooking the graveyard in his honour.

At the rededication ceremony a local priest blessed the cross to the melody of the Der Gute Kamerad. The Good Comrade in the presence of townspeople and visitors from Britain and Ireland.

The cross was erected on 25 May 1917 at the initiation of Rev. J.T. Crotty, a Dominican priest from Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland, sent by the Vatican to administer to the spiritual needs of the Irish prisoners.

Speaking after the rededication ceremony, Mr. Berhard Eufinger, leading official in the town of Dietkirchen said that the cross, standing on that spot for 90 years should serve as a symbol of reconciliation but also stand as a reminder of the immeasurable suffering of the two World Wars in the 20th century.

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