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History of the Project

In 1994, with the closure of Canadian Forces Europe imminent, National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) was requested to provide advice regarding the future management of the lease of a portion of a cemetery in Zweibrücken, Germany for the graves of family members of Canadian military personnel.

It was learned that, in accordance with departmental policy, service members and their dependants who died outside of Canada and the USA were not returned to Canada but were buried in either military cemeteries or, in the case of dependants, in gravesites leased from the local cemetery.

It was also learned that burial plots in much of Europe are not in perpetuity, but rather leased for a specified period as dictated by the local municipality. Plots in the children's section expire after 5 to 20 years and cannot be renewed. Adults in "row" graves will normally rest for 20 or 25 but without a renewal option. "Select" adult graves, which are often used as family plots, can be extended for additional terms. Upon termination of the lease, the grave is leveled or, in the case of a "select" plot, renewed for a fee at the request of the next-of-kin.

This knowledge led to a research project to determine the names and locations of Canadian service members and their dependants buried in Europe. There were two leases in place, one in Werl and one in Zweibrücken. However, interments had occurred in many other locations and the status was not known. The Assistant Deputy Minister (Infrastructure and Environment) (ADM(IE)) led by the Director General Realty Policy and Plans (DGRPP) has carried out research to confirm locations and met with local municipalities to discuss the preservation of the existing Canadian graves and the installation of Memorial Cairns to identify those whose graves has been lost.

Approval was granted and funds were made available to preserve the final resting place of post-war service members and dependants in Europe. This included authority to renew leases or enter into leases in cemeteries in Europe where there were graves; construct memorial cairns identifying the sites as the resting place of Canadian citizens; maintain or replace markers; and, provide ongoing maintenance of the sites.

During 2002, significant rehabilitation was carried out in Werl, Zweibrücken, Rheinmünster-Söllingen (Baden) and Lahr, Germany, in addition to St. Avold, Lelling and Bistroff, France. St. Hillaire's Cemetery at Marville as well as other locations in France, Belgium and Germany were restored in 2003.

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