During this voluntary work assignment at the German war cemetery Ysselsteyn, we participants are not accommodated in a hotel but in the accommodation of the associated youth meeting center. Autumn has also arrived in Holland and the night was a bit colder than I would have liked. In the morning, the work to be done in the coming week was presented: branches and twigs that the storms had carried there are to be cleared away from the cemetery.
Trenches for an irrigation system are to be dug in the beds in front of the information center and weeding is to be done. The exposed masonry of the entrance area must be repointed. “Does anyone know about masonry?” Here I raised my hand.
However, after the work had been distributed, we did not start immediately, but first went to the cemetery with a member of staff to learn about the history of the cemetery. About 32,000 war dead lie here. Child soldiers of the Wehrmacht who lost their lives at the age of 17 in the last months of the war, sailors of the Kriegsmarine who were washed ashore, interned German civilians who had died in the starvation winter of 1944/45, former Dutch collaborators who were with the Waffen SS and German war criminals also lie here among the majority of ordinary German soldiers who fell believing they were doing their duty in defending their homeland.
The war cemetery is impressive because it was designed by the Americans. That is why the German war dead are buried in individual graves, just like the US Army does with their soldiers. Usually, however, the fallen Germans are buried in mass or comrade graves. With 32,000 individual graves, the German cemetery of Ysselsteyn is enormous and the largest German military cemetery in the world in terms of area.
I started grouting the entrance wall with a colleague. It took a moment before we had a common understanding of how to do this task. After all, I once learned the bricklaying trade as part of my vocational training. That was a strong argument that the colleague Rudi accepted and we grouted along until lunch was called. In the meantime, the morning drizzle had increased more and more and flushed the cement out of the joints and made the mortar too wet. When it rains so heavily, it is no longer possible to grout cleanly. So we cleaned our tools and put them away. After lunch, team leader Frank and I took on the task of lining a wooden shelter with a wire mesh fence so that the firewood placed there could no longer slip. A job that could easily be done with two people and only required a little tinkering.
After dinner I sat down with some people from the team and played Lie-Double/21 and it was great fun. With every voluntary work assignment, it always depends on the work to bedone. But it is even more important that the colleagues are okay. This is the case so far this time.