The German Cemetery of the First World War in the Village Pronki
Historical and cultural complexes
The Great Patriotic War has greatly expunged the memories of the First World War. But traces of such a large-scale tragic event could not but leave its marks on our planet. One of these marks is a cemetery of the period of the First World War in the village Pronki where once large-scale battles between the Russians and Germans took place.
Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre, the commander in chief of the French army, and French General Paul-Gerald-Marie-Cesar turned to Russia with a request to make a spoiling attack against the Germans, and the Russian Command agreed to help in the early spring of 1916 without waiting for the general offensive of the Entente that was planned in May of the same year. Despite the muddy season, typical for early spring, the strategic plan was the urgent assistance to the French who defended the fortress of Verdun. Belarusian frosts alternated with warming and rains, making the area difficult to cross, and the preparation for the operation took little time – all this had a negative impact on the advance of Russian troops, who began their attack on March 16. The troops slumped waist-deep in melted snow getting severely frostbitten, but did not become despondent and showed amazing courage. During the battle of Naroch young seventeen-year-old Eugenia Vorontsova made a heroic act. She was the first to rush into the fight, becoming an example to the regiment, and was killed during the battle. The losses of the both sides were enormous, but the Russians achieved the desired and greatly helped the French in Verdun, and during their following operations successfully used this experience.
In the village Pronki there are traces of these bloody battles – here is one of the largest war graves in Belarus. In this cemetery thousands of Russian and German soldiers are buried. It is often the case that former enemies are buried nearby. In the southern part of the village there is still a German monument. During the Soviet period it was tried to destroy – as this is shown by stones pulled out of the monument, but it has remained to our time. During the Great Patriotic War these places were a partisans ‘area that is shown by concrete slab and the remnants of excavated trenches that are still there, but military cemeteries of only the early XX century have survived.
It should be noted that burials in the village Pronki are among the well-kept in Belarus. The Germans began to seek and to improve the graves in the 20-s of the last century. Unfortunately, the Soviet authorities did nothing to make these places better. In the 1990s the National Union of Germany of War Grave Upkeep again put in order the territory of the cemetery. Despite the terrible actions of looters that have destroyed some graves, the burial place is rather well-kept. The tombstones are made mainly in German. The Germans still come here and try to take care of the cemetery without sharing graves on a national basis.
This military cemetery is a reminder of the terrible international conflict. And it is so important to know the history and its heroes, especially when there are places that help to study it.