German Memorial


The German War Cemetery at El Alamein, seen in this image, lies about seven kilometres west of the town of El Alamein, or three kilometres east of the Italian Military Shrine. It is accessible via a short 700 metre drive along a dirt road leading off the main Alexandria-Marsa Matrouh Road to the north (towards the Mediterranean Sea).  

The castle-like design of the cemetery is similar to that of Castel del Monte, a thirteenth century castle built under the orders of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the Apulia region of Italy.  The cemetery layout is in the shape of an octagon, with each corner secured by a tower. Amid the dry, arid western desert, the desert-tones of the cemetery stone give the impression of a cemetery rising up from the earth.

Commemoration services are held in this cemetery every three years. In the intervening years services are held at the nearby Italian or British cemeteries.

Image: Entrance to the German War Cemetery
Creator: Nathan Wise

The initial German force, the German Africa Corps (Deutsches Afrikakorps or DAK) was deployed to North Africa along with their commander, Erwin Rommel, in February 1941, to reinforce Italian troops in an attempt to stop the British advance through Libya. From this point, until the end of the North African Campaign in May, 1943, some 20,000 German soldiers lost their lives. Of these, 4213 are buried in the German War Cemetery at El Alamein. Most of the soldiers buried here lost their lives in the fighting around El Alamein in 1942. A further 30 German soldiers from the First World War are also commemorated here, in addition to 31 soldiers of unknown nationality.

Within the cemetery, these men are commemorated individually, by name, on inscribed bronze plaques displayed in a series of niches or tomb chambers, such as the one seen in this image. Within each chamber three sarcophagi are inscribed with the emblem of different German regions, as shown in the top-right inset on the image above.

Image: One of the several tomb chambers within the German War Cemetery.
Creator: Christopher Karykides

This image displays the view across Egypt’s Western Desert, looking east towards the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea just north of El Alamein (on the horizon near the top-centre of the image. The cemetery walls are forty feet high, and as this is sited on top of a hill (known to Allied forces during the campaign as Trig 26) overlooking the town of El Alamein to the east, the battlefields to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the cemetery is easily visible from the surrounding area. A climb to the top of the cemetery walls also provides panoramic views of the surrounding area, such as the view seen here (note that the roof is accessible via a steep staircase in the north-east corner of the cemetery, followed by a steep steel ladder climb).

Image: The view east from the top of the German War Cemetery, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea towards El Alamein.
Creator: Christopher Karykides

This image displays the courtyard in the centre of the German War Cemetery. In the centre, an 11.5 metre high obelisk stands, surrounded by four raptors on the corners of its base. This structure carefully combines aspects of German and Egyptian heritage. The raptor (the eagle in particular) has long been a symbol of German heritage. Whilst in Egypt, a falcon symbolises the Egyptian god Horus  often portrayed as a man with a falcon’s head. Horus served many functions in ancient Egyptian religion, including being the god of war and of protection in the afterlife. The obelisk is another familiar ancient Egyptian structure, typically used to mark the entrance of tombs. With thousands of German soldiers buried in Egypt, many see it fitting that the cemetery carefully combines aspects of these two nation’s heritage.

Image: The obelisk standing in the centre of the German War Cemetery, surrounded on all sides by tomb chambers.
Creator: Christopher Karykides


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