La Cambe is a Second World War German military war grave cemetery, located close to the American landing beach of Omaha, and 25.5 km (15.8 mi) north west of Bayeux in Normandy, France. It is the largest German war cemetery in Normandy and contains the remains of over 21,200 German military personnel. Initially, American and German dead were buried in adjacent fields but American dead were later disinterred and either returned to the US or re-interred at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial 15 km (9.3 mi). After the war over 12,000 German dead were moved from approximately 1,400 field burials across Normandy to La Cambe. The cemetery is maintained and managed by the voluntary German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge).
La Cambe, as an existing site of German war dead with over 8,000 interments, was already informally cared for by the German War Graves Commission, was a natural choice for one of the six formal sites. After the signing in 1954 of the Franco-German Treaty on War Graves, La Cambe was formally cared for, allowing the remains of 12,000 German soldiers to be moved in from 1,400 locations in the French departments of Manche, Calvados and the Orne.
In 1954, the Franco-German War Graves Agreement ratified that the Reinternment Commission of the Volksbund could move German bodies from field graves and village cemeteries. During the removals many previously anonymous German soldiers were identified. In 1958, the youth section of the Volksbund drew people from seven nations to work on the cemetery. Layout and landscaping of the site began immediately after formal handover, with a large central tumulus (or kamaradengraben), flanked by two statues and topped by a large dark cross in basalt lava, which marks the resting place for 207 unknown and 89 identified German soldiers, interred together in a mass grave. The tumulus is surrounded by 49 rectangular grave fields with up to 400 graves each. On the large grass areas graves are identified by flat grave markers.
La Cambe was officially inaugurated as a war cemetery in September 1961 [(along with the German cemeteries at Marigny, Orglandes and Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux). Special trains were organised to bring former comrade and family members to La Cambe. Since that date, the remains of more than 700 soldiers found on battlefields across Normandy have been re-interred at La Cambe.
The sign in front of the cemetery reads as follows:
The German Cemetery at La Cambe: In the Same Soil of France. Until 1947, this was an American cemetery. The remains were exhumed and shipped to the United States. It has been German since 1948, and contains over 21,000 graves. With its melancholy rigour, it is a graveyard for soldiers not all of whom had chosen either the cause or the fight. They too have found rest in our soil of France.
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