U.S. Memorial Wereth

2022 Ceremony in Wereth: “In days like these we people come closer together”.

You can find photos of the commemoration on Paul Mckelvie’s Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/macca-46/52093940090/in/album-72177720299180287/

Article by Gerd Hennen / grenzecho.net (22 May 2022)

In Wereth on Saturday, the African-American soldiers massacred 78 years ago were remembered. On 17 December 1944, farmer Mathias Langer offered hospice to eleven African-American soldiers who had been cut off from their unit in the confusion of the wintry Battle of the Bulge. The joy lasted only a short time, because local Nazi sympathisers betrayed the GIs, who were placed and captured by SS soldiers. A short time later, the eleven soldiers were tortured and executed just outside the hamlet. It was not until several months later that the bodies were recovered from under the masses of snow. 

In 1994, Hermann Langer, a twelve-year-old witness to the massacre at the time, erected a memorial stone. For the commemoration of the 78th anniversary of the massacre, there was once again a big crowd in little Wereth. In addition to the US Embassy’s advisor for public affairs, Amy Grier, local politicians Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Oliver Paasch, Erik Wiesemes, Gregor Freches as well as representatives of the military such as Lt. Colonel Beckers, Colonel Dupont, Wirtz, Alain Jetteur and Kurt Maertens came to pay their respects to the fallen heroes. A family from Romania also attended the moving ceremony in solidarity with their Ukrainian brothers. Sandra Green, the niece of GI Robert Green, who was killed 78 years ago, was also present.

In her speech, Solange Dekeyser emphasised that the fallen soldiers fought for the values that we sometimes take for granted in our everyday comfort and which are being concretely endangered by Putin’s current aggression. “The memory remains if we fight against forgetting and propagate the values such as tolerance, compassion, civil courage and love of freedom and peace. These are all the values that the Langer family held out to African-American GIs and that were a deceptive glimmer of hope for these young men.”

© Paul Mckelvie

Chaplain Cpt Thomas J. Simmons stressed that prayer is the most important anchor point for people in these days of uncertainty. “It is in days like these that we people draw together and become one, one against oppression, against war and for peace in the world”. 

Mayor Erik Wiesemes emphasised the aspect of constantly remembering so that younger generations do not fall for nationalist-dictatorial narratives of political rulers again. “We must not just wallow in the past, but draw our lessons and conclusions so that international understanding and peaceful coexistence among people become the maxim. This means being vigilant against anti-democratic and war-glorifying tendencies and currents and courageously counteracting them.” Amy Grier from the US Embassy in Brussels stressed that the United States stands together with Europe to defend freedom and independence against oppression, just as it did 80 years ago. “America still stands for these principles. 

© Paul Mckelvie

Commander Hattie Maxwell of the National Association of Black Veterans thanked the eleven fallen comrades. “We owe it to them to complete the mission for which they gave their lives, which is to bring freedom and democracy to the oppressed and to free the world from any tyrannical rule. “Slava Ukraine!” said the representative of the Veterans Service. 

This year, schoolchildren from the Iveldingen Community School experienced the ceremony first-hand and acted as “flower children” at the obligatory wreath-laying ceremony. After the salute shots of the Ramstein Base Honor Guard, the playing of the national anthems as well as a musical intermezzo of the Vogelweh Gospel Service Choir and the marching off of the Color Guard from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center under the direction of SFC Richard Aguilar, the two “Masters of Ceremony” Gary Jost and Luka Hennen invited the festive congregation to the Schützenhalle in Medell, where a lively exchange also took place over lunch.

© Paul Mckelvie