Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Indian POW graveyard, Zehrendorf

Owing to some of my work I occasionally work in Wünsdorf, a town in Brandenburg.  It's a very interesting place, as the majority of it was closed off and used as a bunker complex by the Nazis.  The same place was used by Soviet forces and at its height about 60,000 Soviet forces were living there, thus being biggest place for them in the GDR.

In fact the place had been used by the Imperial Army from 1910 as a training ground, i.e. in preparation for what was to the WWI.  During the war it was used as a POW camp for Indians.  The first ever mosque in Germany was consequently built.  It is for that reason why this graveyard is now close to the site.


Indian graveyard Zehrendorf

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for the honoured remembrance of the almost 1.7m members of the Commonwealth Armed Forces who gave their lives in both world wars.  The graves and memorial stones are for men and women from all parts of the Commonwealth, with different or no beliefs and from about 150 countries.

The graves of 206 soldiers and sailors of the Armed Forces of the undivided India who died in the First World War in the Zossen POW camp, 5km from here.

Ever since the end of the Second World War until the early 1990's this land where the graveyard is was in the occupation of Russian (sic.) military forces, and was used as a training camp.  That the care of this graveyard during this time was not possible for the Commission, the war victims buried here were commemorated on special boards in the Indian memorial site in Neuve-Chappelle, France.

After the unification of Germany in 1990 the Commission began to restore the graveyard.  The work finished in 2005.

Translation: Gravestone of Muslim Rasan (?) Tatar who died while being POW's under the government of Wilhelm II during the world war

Apart from the standard rules on how one should treat the dead, this graveyard is important for another reason: There are some who believe that only those born in Britain fought as British people.  There are some who want to use commemoration of the two world wars in order to make their racist points.  Such a graveyard shows that Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and people of no faith fought alongside each other during WW1. 

If you are Christian and wish to help take a stand against such a racist abuse of history, please join this group on Facebook. 


  1. This is a really interesting post.
    I was most interested that the Maharajah of Bikaner was one of the signitories of the Treaty of Versailles.
    The history of Empire PoW's is not well documented. How grim to die so very far from home.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth. I mean to get in touch with you.

    Is it yourself who does that blog with many cool photos of New York?