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German War Graves Commission plans youth exchange programme with Italy for Centenary

Posted on on 21 December 2013
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The German War Graves Commission is planning a "youth exchange" programme for 2014, which will see First World War related events in both Italy and Germany.

Although primarily a German-Italian project, the Commission has stated that the programme is "internationally oriented" and other nationalities are welcome.

The programme, entitled Workcamp Soltau -Costermano, is inviting young people (aged 16 - 22) from different countries to take part in order to "get to know one another in a spirit of reconciliation by learning about history and taking care of war cemeteries".

It is appealing for organisations in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to work with in order to attract participants.


The main focus of the programme in Germany will be the German Empire's largest First World War prisoner of war camp.

Soltau Camp in Hanover held more than 60,000 prisoners - mainly Belgians, Frenchmen, Russians and Serbians - but the area is largely known by young people today for its local amusement park.

The German War Graves Commission states that on the occasion of the Centenary, its aim for the project is "to raise awareness about the First World War as the first global catastrophe" and to engage young people about the topic.

Participants will visit the nearby Soltau-Ahlften prisoner of war cemetery, where available information indicates that a total of 859 deceased prisoners of war from the camp are buried. Specifically, 780 Russian, 70 Serbian, 5 Romanian and 4 Portuguese prisoners of war.

                      Soltau-Alfthen cemetery, courtesy of the German War Graves Commission

When and what the prisoners died of is unknown to the Commission, as no indication is given on the graves, but Spanish Influenza is suspected in some cases.

Excursions to Heide-Park Soltau are also planned.


The Italian programme will include a visit to the Campana dei Caduti, or Peace Bell/Bell for the Fallen at Rovereto, Trentino.

                                 The Bell for the Fallen at Rovereto, courtesy of Visit Rovereto

It is "the largest sounding bell in the world" and commemorates those who have fallen in war every evening with 100 tolls.

It was cast in Trento in 1924 with the bronze from the cannons of the nations that took part in the First World War.

Workshops on the issue of captivity in northern Italy during the First World War will also be held as part of the programme.

Trips to Verona and Lake Garda are also planned.


Jörg Schgalin:

Source: German War Graves Commission

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News