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Volksbund checks reports of skeletons found on the destroyed Kakhovka Dam

Reburial service in Ukraine is standing by to recover the fallen soldiers

Niestetal, 13 June 2023. The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge is checking reports that remains of German soldiers have been found in southern Ukraine and that these finds are linked to the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam.

According to media reports, the mortal remains of German soldiers were found after the destruction of the dam. As the “Berliner Morgenpost” reports, one Twitter user posted a video in which human skulls can be seen lying in the damp earth. One of them seems to be wearing a very rusty helmet, suggesting that this really could be a soldier from the Wehrmacht. It is not currently possible to independently verify the recordings.

Arne Schrader, Head of the War Graves Service Department, said: “We are very grateful for such information. The reburial service in Ukraine has been informed and the employees will begin to recover the bodies as soon as the situation allows. At the moment, this is not yet possible.”

In 2017, the Volksbund’s reburial service recovered the mortal remains of 154 German soldiers in the Kakhovka region. Historical records that have been analysed by the Volksbund report more than 1,500 dead in this region. “We are now checking our own records to ascertain whether previously inaccessible Wehrmacht cemeteries were set up in the area where the Kakhovka Reservoir was created between 1955 and 1958,” explains Schrader. “To this end, names of places that were flooded at that time must be compared with the historical reports of this region.” The fighting currently makes it impossible to send employees to conduct soundings on the spot, according to Schrader.

The reservoir has an area of 2,155 square kilometres and contains 18.2 billion cubic metres of water – which corresponds to ninety times the volume of the Edersee Reservoir. Before the dam was destroyed on 6 June 2023 in the course of the Russo-Ukrainian War, the maximum water depth was 32 metres.

The Volksbund is still finding thousands of German soldiers every year in Ukraine, Russian and Belarus. In the past year, reburiers commissioned by the Volksbund have exhumed 972 fallen soldiers in Ukraine – both in planned actions and in emergency exhumations. Ukrainian soldiers also came across the skeletons of two German soldiers from the Second World War when digging trenches. They recovered the mortal remains and handed them over to the Volksbund.

In Belarus, the Volksbund recovered the remains of 1,301 soldiers in 2022, in Russia – where only a technical tending of war graves is currently possible – 5,839 dead. Tips from eye witnesses and locals still play a major role when it comes to finding the burial sites of soldiers who died in the Second World War.

The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. is a humanitarian organisation. On behalf of the German government, it devotes itself to looking for and recovering war dead abroad, giving them a dignified burial and tending their graves. The Volksbund supports relatives and advises public and private entities on matters relating to the tending of war graves, including internationally. It is involved in remembrance culture and promotes encounters and education of young people at the resting places of the dead. The Volksbund finances its work mainly from membership fees and donations.

German translation

Harald John Abteilungsleiter Öffentlichkeitsarbeit