HOHENFELS, Germany -- During World War II, the area comprising the Hohenfels Training Area was a German Prisoner of War camp known as Stalag 383. Prisoners from many Allied forces were held here, with Polish prisoners comprising more than half of the 5,000 captives.
From 1945 -- 1949, displaced persons and former prisoners of war were housed in Hohenfels. During this time, former Polish prisoners erected three stone monuments and built a cemetery north of Unteroedenhart for the many displaced persons, mainly Polish, who died during a typhoid epidemic.
Polish Consul Dr. Aleksander Korybut-Woroniecki visited Hohenfels, recently, to view the monuments and the cemetery where roughly 240 Poles were interred. Though the bodies were relocated in 1962, many of the headstones remain.
For years, the Hohenfels chapter of the German American Kontakt Club has coordinated with other community agencies to maintain the cemetery as part of their Make a Difference Day project. Korybut-Woroniecki said his government was unaware of the monuments until they were recently brought to his attention by Kazimierz and Broni Kaminski, German nationals of Polish descent living in the Hohenfels Military Community.
"We knew that there was a cemetery here, and when we went to visit it in summer the grass was so high," said Broni Kaminski. "So we thought the Polish embassy in Munich could do something because it's a little bit, I would say, their responsibility to see that it's maintained."
Though there are several political hurdles to overcome first, Korybut-Woroniecki feels strongly about aiding in the maintenance and restoration of the monuments at Hohenfels.
"This is the right time for this project," said Korybut-Woroniecki. Several other Polish cemeteries around southern Germany are currently being renovated and Korybut-Woroniecki hopes to add the Hohenfels monuments to the list.
"We'd like to do this project together with support of our American friends," Korybut-Woroniecki added.
One of the monuments, a stone cairn near the Community Mail Room, honors participants in the Warsaw Uprising. Korybut-Woroniecki found this particularly moving as he had a cousin in the Polish Resistance who had participated in the uprising.
Col. Thomas H. Mackey, Joint Multinational Readiness Center commander, said he first became aware of the Polish cemetery during a headstone preservation project spearheaded by a Hohenfels Eagle Scout candidate last year. Korybut-Woroniecki said he hoped that next year, Polish boy scouts could also participate in the clean-up project.
"It is history, but it is even now a part of our lives," said Korybut-Woroniecki.
"It was a privilege to visit with Dr. Korybut-Woroniecki and to hear him express his sincere appreciation for the efforts of the Kontakt Club to maintain the cemetery and his enthusiasm for our future plans," said Dennis Bartow, the Kontakt Club's American president. "For me, all along I have felt that our work has been for those interred in this sacred place and suffered through that terrible time in history. But with this visit, I now see and feel how important our work is for the living, too."