Ceremony honors infants laid to rest at Kaiserslautern cemetery

Courtesy of Ramstein Area Chiefs’ Group

Flags are placed as grave markers for 451 infants. A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Daenner Chapel and the Kaiserslautern main cemetery. — U.S. Air Force photos

The annual Kindergraves memorial ceremony will take place 3 p.m. Saturday at Daenner Chapel on Daenner Kaserne and the Kaisers-lautern main cemetery (Waldfriedhof). After speeches by city officials and Maj. Gen. Timothy M. Zadalis, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa vice commander, the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Color Guard will lead attendants in a procession to the gravesites.

From 1952 to 1971, 451 American infants, who died at the American military hospital at Landstuhl or at nearby civilian hospitals, were buried in the Kaiserslautern cemetery. Most were six months old or younger and died as a result of birth complications or incurable disease. Transportation for a stateside burial was not available.

For more than three decades, the Kindergraves were scattered throughout different areas of the cemetery. Initially, German and American women cared for the gravesites. In 1986, the Ramstein Area Chiefs’ Group joined with the German American and International Women’s Club in forming the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation. The foundation worked with community leaders to consolidate the children’s graves to one centralized location. The Ramstein Chiefs’ Group volunteered as the official agent in leasing the land where the “U.S. Force’s Kinder” monument now stands. The purpose of the KKMF is to preserve a respectful and eternal resting place for the children. The foundation maintains open communications with families, preserves historical archives, conducts ceremonies, and provides oversight to site maintenance.

While the Kindergraves look as if they receive tender loving care from their families, most of the families returned to America many decades ago. The care and upkeep of the site is performed by American and German volunteers, cutting the grass, raking leaves, cleaning grave markers and tending to the flowers. Private donations fund the maintenance activities.

Each spring, on the Saturday following Mother’s Day, the RACG and GAIWC conduct the Kindergraves memorial ceremony.

The Kindergraves memorial service scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday features speeches, the lighting of candles and a wreath laying at Daenner Chapel and the Kaiserslautern main cemetery.