At the end of April 1945, the town of Halbe to the south-east of Berlin became the setting for the last, particularly bitter battle between the Red Army, which was machining on the German capital, and the German Army troops pulling back from the River Oder. In a narrow woodland between Halbe and Märkisch-Buchholz, the “cauldron of Halbe”, shortly before the end of the Second World War, the remains of the 9th Army of the German forces, SS troops, members of the Volkssturm, the Hitler Youth and the Reich Labour Service – a total of over 150,000 soldiers in all – were surrounded by the Soviet troops. Thousands of refugees, most women, children and older people plus the local civilian population ended up in the midst of the chaos of the battles. After several attempts to break out by the German army and heavy fire from all sides, the roads in the town presented a horrific picture: “I ran for my life, along with many others, between the tanks through the streets that were lined with houses that had been shot to pieces. They were covered with piles of corpses”, recalls a German soldier. Tens of thousands of dead and wounded were left once the fighting had ended.
The bodies were buried in the Halbe Forest Cemetery. It was expanded in the 1950s into a central cemetery on the instigation of the pastor Ernst Teichmann, and is now one of the large war grave cemeteries in Germany. The thousands of bodies from the Soviet internment camp in Ketschendorf were also transferred here. War dead found in Brandenburg are still being buried here. The complex has been maintained since 2002 by the German War Graves Commission, which runs a meeting and education centre in the “Old School” in Halbe and which offers an audio guide for a circular tour online. There is an open-air exhibition on the history of the battle and the forest cemetery in the town and at the entrance to the cemetery.
- Herbert Pietsch/Rainer Potratz/Meinhard Stark (Hg.), Nun hängen die Schreie mir an … . Halbe, Ein Friedhof und seine Toten, Berlin 1995.
- Meinhard Stark (Hg.), Ernst Teichmann, Pfarrer vom Waldfriedhof Halbe. Briefe und Aufzeichnungen 1950 bis 1983, Potsdam 1997.
- Renate und Jan Lipinsky, Die Strasse die in den Tod führte. Zur Geschichte des Speziallagers Nr. 5 Ketschendorf/Fürstenwalde, Leverkusen 1998.
- Günter Morsch (Hg.), Mittel- und langfristige Perspektiven für den Waldfriedhof Halbe, Berlin 2009 (Materialien der Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten, Bd. 4).
www.volksbund.de/kriegsgraeberstaette/halbe.html (Website of the German War Graves Commission with information about the forest cemetery and audioguide for the tour)
www.politische-bildung-brandenburg.de/node/6836 (Information about the battle and the forest cemetery on the website of the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung)
www.internierungslager-ketschendorf.de (Website of the Ketschendorf Camp Initiative Group)