I recently rewatched two older videos by YouTubers JD from The History Underground and Chris Mowery from Vlogging Through History about their Currahee clean-up project in 2021. They’re simply good for the soul — whatever your thoughts on the Second World War, Band of Brothers (“the men that saved the world” — seriously, Chris?), or even the criticized “I love Hitler” graffiti. And in a way, it reminded me of our own little community project.
In 2018, I said goodbye to the city that I had lived in for 20 years — I still work there twice a week, so I’m not completely free of it yet — and moved to a small town. Having grown up as a country girl, I figured if the choice was between the anonymous freedom but increasing insanity of a big city, and the fact that everyone knows what their small-town neighbor has for breakfast but also notices anything fishy going on, I really preferred the latter. I haven’t regretted my decision even once.
Now, for some reason I have a liking for cemeteries. One day, when strolling across the one in my new hometown, I discovered a neglected corner with several similar-looking old graves, their “inhabitants” all having died in the mid-1940s and all featuring Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian names. They were the graves of forced — or “civil” — laborers, of course. At the time there was very little information available on them; I have since done some digging.
Seeing that for all appearances, nobody took care of those graves, I adopted them. I cut away what felt like tons of ivy, weeded dandelions, planted daffodil bulbs, and installed grave lanterns. Then one day there was a commotion in the cemetery. It turned out that a group of volunteers, mostly from the local Protestant church, had had a similar idea and were planning to improve the cemetery. We quickly joined forces. We’ve worked side-by-side now for over three years, the church group providing contacts within the local administration and community while I provide contact with the German war graves commission, of which I am a member, as well as expertise on Second World War history in general and “our” forced laborers in particular.
It was only recently that I realized that what we are doing is community-building. While I am under no illusion that any member of the group would identify as an advocate for the white cause — they are too Christian or too politically correct, or both, for that — we all are white locals intent on preserving and improving our town. And although there are increasing numbers of mostly Turkish Muslims, and lately sub-Saharan Africans in our small town, you hardly ever see them at the cemetery that has by now become a beautiful oasis full of trees, bushes, and insect-friendly flowers.
In our group’s early days, a well-meaning but brainwashed helper muttered the usual “problem” about the memorial to the German soldiers of both world wars, a huge stone cross bearing the inscription Treue um Treue (“Loyalty for loyalty”). For years, if not decades, the area where it stands had been neglected and ignored in shame. The place is now an extremely popular spot for tree burials — i.e., urns are buried under the trees surrounding the memorial. People are even registering for it in advance.
Next will be the corner containing the forced laborers’ graves. We are planning a peaceful setting with rose bushes and benches under birch trees that are already there. There will be an information board, of course, and our long-term plans include QR codes for each grave, telling its story, and maybe even an audio guide for the entire cemetery. Teenagers from the church community have already expressed their interest in getting involved.
In the overall scheme of things, it might not sound like much. And maybe in a few years, our town will have gone to the dogs regardless. I don’t know. Still, it occurs to me that you shouldn’t disregard the little projects. If it creates something beautiful, and if it gets the locals interested in their community and their history, it might sow the seeds for a much larger renewal. And if you don’t go too crazy all at once, you might even have unexpectedly good conversations with others about politics and white identity.
As JD said in his video:
. . . all came together for a common cause because they saw a wrong that needed to be righted, and they were willing to take their words and put them into action, and start pushing back on something that really, really needed correcting. Now, we do need to be real about something. In the short term, this isn’t going to last. The people who vandalized this area will be back and they will do it again . . . But that doesn’t mean that we give up. If there’s one thing that we can learn from history, it’s that there are just some people who define themselves by what they can desecrate and what they can destroy . . . But again, that doesn’t mean that we give up. There are always going to be people who are going to try and tear things down and try and turn the world into an ugly place. And it’s in those times when good people have to band together. They have to make a firm stand and say, “No. You will not do this. You will not destroy our history. You will not desecrate and take the things that God has made beautiful and turn them into something ugly. You’re not going to take our society and grind it into the dirt.”
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