German Necropolis Saint Laurent BlangyGerman Necropolis Saint Laurent Blangy
©German Necropolis Saint Laurent Blangy|Isabelle Pilarowski
German military necropolisSaint-Laurent-Blangy

German military necropolis of Saint-Laurent-Blangy

Next to the white headstones lined up in a perfect English garden at the Bailleul Road East Commonwealth Military Cemetery, hundreds of black crosses seem to grow in the green grass of a rolling terrain and under a veritable forest, a symbol of warrior paradise in Germanic mythology. This wooded cemetery is the German military necropolis of Saint-Laurent-Blangy.

Established in the early 1920s by the French to collect the remains of Germans who fell south of Arras, it houses the majority of the unidentified bodies of the Artois sector in a mass grave. The burials of the northern sector of this front, on the other hand, were grouped in the Maison Blanche necropolis in Neuville Saint-Vaast.

The cemetery in a natural setting

Early in 1926, the VDK (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, Service d’entretien des tombes militaires allemandes) entered into an agreement with the French authorities to plant trees and erect a stone wall around the mass grave.

The work of identifying the remains would not be completed until after World War II. In 1966, the VDK , continuing its mission of “reconciliation over the graves,” resumed the development work, supported by the new German Federal Republic. In particular, it replaces the wooden crosses with metal ones.


"Here lies ..."

Today, 31,939 German soldiers who died in the Great War are buried here: 7,069 in individual graves and 24,870 in the common grave, of which 11,587 remain unknown. The names of the soldiers buried in the mass grave and identified are engraved on black metal panels, installed on both sides of a small alley running along the ossuary. Victims of the Jewish faith are buried under a stone stele, bearing the Star of David and inscriptions in Hebrew: “Here lies under the earth…may his soul be connected to the circle of the living.”

In 1956, an urban planning operation led to the closure of the German square in the communal cemetery of Comines near Lille. The 4,283 soldiers buried there were transferred to Saint-Laurent, but the monument that had been erected in their honor is still visible in the Comines cemetery.