- Recogne 27, Bastogne, Belgique
War is not only about battles, battlefields, winners or losers. It is also about mourning, souvenirs, reconstruction and commemoration. In the hamlet of Recogne, near Bastogne in Belgium, a German cemetery gathers the remains of more than 6,800 German soldiers from 17 to 52 years old, who died during the Second World War.
After the heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge and the victory of the Allies, the Americans established a cemetery in Recogne for some 2,700 Americans and 3,000 German soldiers. After the war, in 1946 and 1947, the remains of the fallen American soldiers were transferred to Henri-Chapelle, anAmerican Cemetery and Memorial. This cemetery kept growing when the Belgian authorities started clearing all German cemeteries in the area and transferred all German graves either to Recogne or to Lommel German War Cemetery. About half of the German soldiers on this cemetery lost their lives during the Ardennes Offensive between December 1944 and January 1945. Others died in battles in Luxembourg, in the German border area and during the occupation of Belgium.
Not far from Bastogne lies the little village of Recogne, where during the Battle of the Bulge fierce fighting took place. On the Recogne German Military Cemetery 6,807 German soldiers lie buried. In 1954, an agreement was reached between the Kingdom of Belgium and the German Federal Republic. The management of the cemetery was transferred to the German War Graves Commission, which was responsible for the care and upkeep of the German war cemeteries in Belgium.
The American Memorial and Military Cemetery in Neupré gathers the remains and graves of 5,328 men. Many of them died during the Battle of the Bulge. The British cemetery in Hotton contains 666 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.
1944 was the year in which Horst Helmus turned eighteen. For several years, the German from Gummersbach, a town east of Cologne, had been spared the worst effects of the Nazi wars of aggression. But Hitler’s last gamble in the Ardennes changed all that in the blink of an eye.
The Bastogne War Museum represents a new way to remember the Second World War in Belgium. It offers a fresh perception in a modern and interactive framework of the causes, events and consequences of the Second World War, with a special focus on the Ardennes counteroffensive: the Battle of the Bulge.
In December 1944, when the Allies had advanced unto the Belgian Ardennes, they were completely surprised by three German armies. This was the beginning of the Ardennes Offensive or ‘Battle of the Bulge’. It was a last desperate attempt of the German Wehrmacht to cut through the allied lines. The battle lasted more than six weeks and took many lives on both sides.