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Polish War Graves Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The Commonwealth War Cemetery Arnhem Oosterbeek, contains the 72 Polish War Graves of World War ll.


The book 'The Battle of Arnhem, 1944-1994: a bridge to the future' (1994) states: 'On 29 August 1946 the Polish graves were cleared in Driel and the human remains were transferred to the military cemetery in Oosterbeek. . These Polish fallen soldiers were reburied on either side of the entrance. It seems as if they have been laid out and are not part of it, but according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) their current location is a consequence of the policy of giving each nationality as much space as possible. The men of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade who fell on the north side of the Rhine in Oosterbeek and surroundings are indeed in the middle of their British comrades. '

In 2007, the CWGC was asked why it was decided to move the Poles from Driel to Oosterbeek at the time. The answer was that it was apparently a result of a letter from Major General R.E. Urquhart from July 1945. In it, the former commander of the 1st British Airborne Division pleaded to bury all Allied soldiers who were directly involved in the combat actions of his division in the Oosterbeek plot.

This may seem like a plausible explanation, but in the first place it is strange that one waited over a year to transfer the remains. And that these are not buried with their allied comrades (including Polish), but in a separate place. If the policy really were to give each nationality as much as possible its own place, then it is remarkable that the New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians and Dutch people are not together in the cemetery.

Not only Poles from Driel were brought to the location at the main entrance of the cemetery. The remains also came from Gorinchem, Rhenen, Neerloon, Nijmegen, Eindhoven, St. Michielsgestel, Wijk bij Duurstede and Elst (Utrecht and Gelderland). On the other hand, a Pool is still buried in Breda. Also in Renkum and many other places in the Netherlands are graves of British 'Airborne' soldiers. The aforementioned letter from the general has thus in any case not led to the concentration of all Arnhem victims in Oosterbeek.

After the liberation in 1945, the British military grave service basically had the task of leaving graves on well-maintained citizen cemeteries alone and concentrating on so-called field graves. In that context it is remarkable that the Polish graves were cleared in the Drielse Kerkhof.

There does not seem to be a real policy here, and a good explanation for what has happened is not there.

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  • Text: TracesofWar.com & G.H. Maassen, Gelders Archief Arnhem
  • Photos: Arjan Vrieze

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