Agreement will preserve grave sites of 451 U.S. military children
October 8, 2010
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation plans to sign a new contract with the city of Kaiserslautern this spring to preserve the graves of 451 American military children buried here.
Most of the children buried at the Kaiserslautern city cemetery belonged to U.S. military stationed in and around Kaiserslautern and died of complications before they were 6 months old. Their bodies were interred from 1952 to 1971, a time when U.S. servicemembers in the area were unable to transport the deceased to the States for burial.
Unlike in America, grave sites in Germany are not always permanent.
Under German law, burial spots are leased for a specific period of time, usually from 15 to 30 years. If a lease is not renewed, the grave’s contents are removed and the grave site reverts to state ownership.
The foundation plans to sign a 25-year lease at a cost of 6,800 euro — about $9,425, according to the group’s co-chairman, Terence DeLay.
A nonprofit, volunteer organization managed by the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group and the German-American and International Women’s Club, the foundation began seeking donations about a year ago to renew the lease.
“We couldn’t believe how fast the money was raised,” DeLay said. Many community groups pitched in, as did individual servicemembers, including a soldier who gave a $1,000 check the day before he left Germany, DeLay said.
So much was raised that the foundation was able to purchase a new bronze statue for the grave site. Restoration of old gravestones is also continuing, DeLay said.
An annual memorial ceremony for the children is held every spring on the Saturday following Mother’s Day.
“I think we have a responsibility to our service men and women, who came over here post-World War II,” DeLay said. “We can’t let the memories of the children go.”