"Volkstrauertag"

The "Volkstrauertag" (day of national mourning) was introduced by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (founded in 1919) at the suggestion of its Bavarian group to commemorate those who died in World War I. The motive was not to be mourning "by order" but a highly visible indication of the solidarity of those who did not suffer any losses with the surviving dependants of the fallen. 

The first official ceremony took place in the Reichstag in Berlin in 1922. The then Reichs-president, Paul Löbe, gave a speech which was well-received both in Germany and abroad, in which he brought a hostile environment face to face with the idea of reconciliation and understanding. Under the leadership of the Volksbund, a committee with many member associations, ranging from the main churches to the Association of Jewish Women, was able to have the day of national mourning held on the same day, the fifth Sunday before Easter, in most of the states making up the Reich. 

In 1934 the National Socialist regime enacted a law making the day of national mourning into a public holiday and renaming it "Heroes Remembrance Day". Up to 1945, the sponsors were the Wehrmacht and the NSDAP. The guidelines governing the content and implementation were issued by the minister of propaganda. After the Federal Republic of Germany was founded, the Volksbund reintroduced the day of national mourning and the day was celebrated for the first time after the war in 1950 with a ceremony in the German parliament building and with many simultaneous regional ceremonies. 

Following an agreement between the federal government, the German states and the major churches, the date for the day of national mourning was fixed as the penultimate Sunday in the ecclesiastical year for the Protestant churches, which is the equivalent of the 33rd Sunday in the ecclesiastical calendar for the Roman Catholic church. The day is protected by state laws. The Volksbund sees this day as a day of mourning, even though the last war is moving further and further into the past. The national day of mourning has also become a day of warning to remind us of the need for reconciliation, understanding and peace. 

Today, on behalf of the federal government the Volksbund looks after the graves of about Two million war dead in over 832 cemeteries in 45 countries. It is supported by over one million members and supporters and the federal government. Its motto is: Reconciliation over the graves - Working for peace

Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.

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