Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sece, Latvia's World War I German cemetery

Mrs. Marathon Pundit is a native of Sece, Latvia. Last month she and Little Marathon Pundit visited the Baltic nation and over the next few weeks I will be posting entries about that trip. This month also marks the twentieth anniversary of the restoration of Latvia's independence.

Adjacent to Sece Evangelic Lutheran Church, which was vacant during communist times, is a World War I German military cemetery. From 1915 until 1917, the Russian-German front was static along the Daugava River; Latvia was part of Czarist Russia during the Great War.

At the base of the monument it reads, "Den tapferen gefallenen," or "The fallen brave."

When Mrs. Marathon Pundit was growing up, the cemetery was in a dilapidated state and remained so until 2008, when Jens Gerstenkorn of Germany, according to Staburags, a local newspaper, brought a work crew to restore the graveyard.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit translated the Staburags article for me. "This is the third time Gerstenkorn took on such an endeavor; twice he was in France where he restored World War I cemeteries there."

"Me and the others were in shock when we saw the condition of the place," Gerstenkorn told Staburags. "Many of us had tears in our eyes, because here lay our grandfathers."

More from Staburags: "In two weeks they removed the brush and debris and cleaned the crosses--many of them were in two or three parts. They plan to rebuild the cemetery's stone wall." Above the flowers is the grave of cavalry soldier Friedrich Hopst, who died on May 24, 1917.

The Kaiser's Germany had a large Polish minority. Here lies Adalbert Karasiwicz, who fell on May 17, 1917.

Johann Gussefeld was an infantry colonel. [See comments--Johannes Gussefeld was an artillery colonel.] My guess is that his family added the granite stone after the war.

There are 280 graves of German soldiers in the Sece cemetery--and one unknown Russian. Yes, there is an iron cross engraved on his stone.

UPDATE November 23, 2012: I am in the process of adding  all of the headstones Mrs. Marathon Pundit photographed.

This stone reads, "Arm. Sold. Paul Kraft. 1.Arm Btl. 103. " Kraft died on October 18, 1918.

Rifleman Karl Greiff perished on September 5, 1918.

Otto Peglow died on Septemter 27, 1915.

Gunner Franz Gelowoski passed away on my birthday--December 8, 1915.

I'm going to come back to this photograph--and perhaps seek some help. Apparently Kurt Madel was a teacher who died on August 7, 1917.

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Anonymous said...

At last I know where my grand-father's eldest brotherJohannes Gussefeld was buried. When I last enquired, the German war graves commitionhad no idea, even though i knew the date he died in Latvia.
He was a colonel in an Artillery not an Infantry regiment. Though retired he was recalled to do an admin job. Thankyou.
G.Gussefeld ex RA

John Ruberry said...

I'm glad to have helped. As for the infantry mistake, I saw "fuss," German for "foot," and made an incorrect assumption. John

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to list the names of the other people buried in this cemetery? Family historians would appreciate it.

John Ruberry said...

This is something I plan to do.