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War Cemeteries

War Cemeteries

The Great War rolled through the Małopolska Region in the years 1914–1915 and took a terrible toll among the soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian armies. Those killed in action and those who died in the hospitals were buried in temporary field graves or makeshift cemeteries.
Society soon began appealing for the dignified resting places in commemoration of the dead. The issues of establishing and ornamenting war cemeteries were discussed in the press and in separate publications. It was assumed that every fallen soldier should be, if possible, identified and then buried with honours becoming of heroes, regardless of whether he belonged to one’s own or the enemy army. Necropolises were supposed to be an expression of gratitude for the soldiers and in a sense monuments erected in their honour. How serious the idea of establishing war cemeteries was treated is manifest in the words chosen for the slogan of the action: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).
In the second half of 1915 the Austro-Hungarian military headquarters began to tidy up the battlefields and to liquidate the makeshift graves. The situation on the front was conducive to these actions, since the enemy Russian army had just been driven out from most of Galicia. On November 3, 1915 the Viennese Ministry of War established the War Graves Department, which was to supervise the entire action. At the same time, local units were established, such as the Kraków War Graves Office, which supervised Western Galicia. These units were charged with the tasks of keeping records of the deceased soldiers, exhuming the corpses and transferring them to selected locations, as well as designing and building war cemeteries.
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