From mid September 1944 till the end of February 1945 fierce battles raged in the region between the ridge line of the Hautes Fagnes and the Roer River,-a phase of World War II better known as “The Huertgen Forest Campaign”. American soldiers dubbed it “The green Hell of Huertgen” , alternately “The Death Factory”, and during the bitterly cold and snowy winter on 1944/45: “A Hell of Icicles”. Ten thousands of American and German soldiers died during the six months of the fierce and bloody fighting. From mid October to early December 1944 Vossenack lay in the center of the battles. The little town changed hands several times. From time to time, the frontline even ran through the center of the local church.
At the end of World War II, the Huertgen Forest presented a scene of sheer horror: vacated and destroyed towns, devastated fields and pastures, a shell shattered and contaminated forest of charred and splintered tree trunks, broken pencils like, pointing skyward. The forest radiated in a ghastly manner-even long after the war-an image of “Burnt Earth”. Following the request of the next of kin, the remains of most American soldiers were repatriated to U.S. soil for interment in a National or private cemetery. Those who were not, received a permanent grave at ‘American Military Cemeteries’ on foreign soil. Internment in former enemy countries, as for instance Germany and Japan, was excluded. The remains of German soldiers who lost their lives during the Huertgen Forest Campaign found their final resting places on German War Cemeteries, especially Huertgen and Vossenack, or communal cemeteries in the area. A larger part of fallen German soldiers had been transferred by elements of the ‘American Graves Registration Service’, a military branch of the Quartermaster Corps, to Belgium and the Netherlands on German War Cemeteries there.
The Vossenack Cemetery was constructed on a strategic site, Hill 470, by the “German War Graves Commission” (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge e. V.) during the years 1949 to 1952. Today the cemetery contains the graves of 2,347 war Dead. Among those are 35 men who lost their lives during post-war operations as members of a “Ammunition Search and Removal Team”
Since 21 May 2005 a monument at the entrance to the cemetery commemorates Julius Erasmus, a German Engineer Captain who-mostly under risking his life-recovered 1,569 sets of remains of his former comrades from the Huertgen Forest battlefields an personally buried them on his hill.
Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge Landesgeschaftsstelle NRW Alfred Strasse 213, 45131 Essen Kreis Duren Der Landrat
(War, World II • Cemeteries & Burial Sites) Includes location, directions, 6 photos, GPS coordinates, map.