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Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof Langemark

Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof Langemark

The Langemarck Myth

Langemark in Belgium has the dubious honor of being the place where chemical warfare made its debut: on April 22, 1915, German soldiers opened gas bottles from which 180 tons of chlorine gas hissed away. At least a thousand soldiers died in a blind panic.

But Langemark rings a bell for another reason. The German military cemetery is located just outside the center of Langemark. 44,000 Germans who died during the First Battle of Ypres between October and November 1914 are buried there. Their deaths soon led to the myth of Langemarck, a fine example of war propaganda from the early twentieth century.

'West of Langemarck, young regiments broke through the first line of enemy positions, chanting 'Deutschland, Deutschland über alles' (Germany, Germany above all in English). About 2,000 soldiers of the French infantry line were taken prisoner, and six machine guns were captured,' was the message that the German army leadership sent to the world on November 11, 1914, from Langemark in West Flanders.

War propaganda

The myth of Langemarck was born. Yet the news was rattling on all sides: the attack took place much closer to the less good-sounding town of Bikschote than to Langemark, and it also turned out that at least 3,000 German soldiers were killed in the fighting, of which 'only' five hundred young recruits—so pure war propaganda.

Yet the Langemarck myth, in which young volunteers were willing to die for their country, was quickly cultivated in Germany. From 1933 onwards, the Third Reich made every effort to emphasize further the young guard's willingness to sacrifice. The climax came in 1936, during the Summer Olympics' run-up in Berlin.

Langemarckhalle in Berlin

At the foot of the clock tower on the Olympic site, the Langemarckhalle was built, a sinister temple commemorating the young war volunteers who died a hero's death during the First World War in Langemark, Belgium.

After the German army marched over Belgium in May 1940, Adolf Hitler visited the Langemark cemetery. It underlines the importance of this symbolic location. Germany still has dozens of Langemarck streets and squares.

Peace town

A stain on the reputation of the municipality of Langemark-Poelkapelle. That is why the city of Langemark sent the relevant municipalities a friendly note asking them to add a sign with more context. In this way, Langemark wants to reclaim its name, which the Nazis misused. The cemetery itself has been part of UNESCO World Heritage since 2023.

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