An attack on France’s biggest military graveyard, the Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery, which lies near the town of Arras in France, is the third incident of Muslim tombstone desecration in two years. In April 2008, 148 Muslim graves were vandalised and a pig’s head was hung from a tombstone. That attack came almost exactly a year after a similar incident had occurred.
Inaugurated in 1925, the cemetery houses the remains of about 40,000 victims of a series of long and bloody battles for control of northern France at the start of World War I. The Muslim quarter includes 576 tombs grouped together and turned towards Mecca. The graves of French Muslim war veterans were affected by the graffiti in the form of Swastikas and hateful slogans against Islam on the eve of Islam’s Eid-al-Adha feast. Letters which were painted upon each gravestone linked together in order to spell out anti-Islamic insults.
President Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the latest outrage as “abject and revolting,” calling it “…the expression of a repugnant racism directed against the Muslim community of France”. Police have been scouring the area in the hope of finding the culprits. The attack came almost exactly a year after a similar incident in which neo-Nazi vandals scrawled swastikas on 52 of the cemetery’s Muslim graves.
If you go looking for a bell in the cemetery the easiest discovery will be a gravestone engraved with the surname Bell. However, if you are looking for the symbol of a bell unrelated to the surname it will be a long search. A bell is one of the rarest symbols found on headstones and quite simply represents mourning.
The Dead Bell in the Middle Ages was believed to frighten away evil spirits.
When someone died the bell ringer passed through the streets of villages, towns or cities ringing the bell slowly and repeatedly while announcing the name of the recently deceased person and details of the funeral. The solemn ringing of the bell led mourners from the home of the deceased to the church where the funeral was held.
In 16th century Britain land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practice of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse which was attached to a bell above ground while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight.
A little grave humour: Harold, the Oakdale gravedigger, upon hearing a bell, went to go see if it was children pretending to be spirits. Sometimes it was also the wind. This time it wasn’t either. A voice from below begged, pleaded to be unburied. “You Sarah O’Bannon?” Yes! the voice assured. “You were born on September 17, 1827?” “Yes!” “The gravestone here says you died on February 19?” “No I’m alive, it was a mistake! Dig me up, set me free!” “Sorry about this, ma’am,” Harold said, stepping on the bell to silence it and plugging up the copper tube with dirt. “But this is August. Whatever you is down there, you ain’t alive no more, and you ain’t comin’ up.”
The Bell of Hope was a gift from London’s St. Mary-le-Bow, which is the sister church to St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan. Installed in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel in September 2002, the Bell of Hope is rung at a ceremony every year on September 11th. It has also been rung after the bombings in Madrid, 2004; London, 2005; Mumbai, 2008; Moscow, 2010; and the Boston Marathon, 2013; and for the shootings at Virginia Tech, 2007 and in Norway, 2011.
The bell is inscribed: “To the Greater Glory of God And in Recognition of The Enduring Links Between The City of London And The City of New York” “Forged in adversity—11.September.2001”
The La Cambe German Cemetery in Normandy, France where there are 21,222 burials with 207 belonging to unknown soldiers. A peace garden with 1,200 maple-trees is adjacent to the cemetery.
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in
There are many memorials around the world commemorating those killed by Hitler and his Nazi party during the Holocaust (Holocaustis a word of Greek origin meaning sacrifice by fire.) Most of these memorials recognize mass graves or those killed en masse.
The following gravestones identify individual families who were killed at the whim of a madman during an era in human history which is shameful and abhorrent.
Memorial to the Stroch family.
Early on the morning of March 9, 1942, the transportation of Mielec’s Jews commenced. That morning, all the remaining Jews were marched at gun point out to the aircraft hangers at Cyranka. The elderly, sick and certain prominent people in the community, including the rabbi, were shot. For the next three days, while Mielec’s Jews were deported by train, those remaining at Cyranka were marched around the compound. Any that appeared weak, sick or injured were shot. Those killed during the transportation were buried in a mass grave near the aircraft factory. (from Mielec Through The Holocaust by Howard Recht).
Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France
For My Dikerman family Exterminated in Auschwitz-Birkenau Moise aged 53, maria aged 52, Abel aged 30 and Regine aged 29
Note: Prisoners being held at Auschwitz were used to build the Birkenau camp crematoriums. In 1942, Auschwitz-Birkenau was a killing center.
Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania
Remembering the Kallos family In Auschwitz 28 May 1944 He was martyred for being a Jew Kallos Dezsone Parent Szalpeter Roza 1884 Kallos Jolan 1909 Her husband Lebovits Bela Kallos Jeno 1911 Kallos Helen 1913 They have memories to be remembered
Note: In November 1944 the gas chambers were being dismantled.
Germany and Europe
In 1993 German artist Gunter Demnig had a simple and effective idea to honour those who were persecuted and murdered during the Holocaust. After locating the former residence of a Nazi victim, and with permission of local authorities, he installed a small commemorative cobblestone topped with a brass plaque in front of the residence. The title of each plaque Hier wohnte (Here lived) records the individual’s name, date of birth and death, and fate. The premise is ‘One victim, one stone’. The project which began in Germany can now be found throughout Europe.
A few fateful words which are found on the brass plaques.
Verhaftet : arrested
Enthauptet : beheaded
Tot : dead
Ermordet : murdered
Uberlebt : survived.
Here Lived Fredy Hirsch Circa 1919 Deported 6.9.1943 Auschwitz Flight into death (this phrase is used in cases of suicide) 8.3.1944
Note: Auschwitz was located in South Western Poland
Here lived Ida Arsenberg Maiden name Benjamin Circa 1870 Deported 1942 Murdered On the 18.9.1942 in Theresienstadt
Note: Theresienstadt was a Czechoslovakian camp/ghetto.
Anyone who did not fit Hitler’s model of the perfect Aryan race was routinely arrested, tortured, and eradicated. Those at risk were:
the mentally ill and physically challenged who were viewed as useless to society were euthanized in gas chambers.
homosexuals were segregated to prevent the spread of homosexuality, and were identified in the camps by pink cloth triangles. Nazis interested in finding a ‘cure’ for homosexuality conducted medical experiments on those prisoners.
Jehovah’s Witnesses whose beliefs did not allow the bearing of arms refused to swear allegiance to the Nazi state. Identified with a purple triangular patch they were considered enemies of the state.
Gypsies were considered racially inferior on a level with the Jews.
Jews were considered racially inferior and a threat to German community. The persecution began in 1938. They were identified within the camps by a yellow star on a white band worn on the right sleeve.
Children were routinely killed on arrival at the camps unless they were considered useful to the medical doctors. Twins were subjected to cruel medical experiments.
The Greek spelling of the name Jesus ‘IHCOYC’ is abbreviated as IHC; when translated into Latin as ‘IHSOUS’ the abbreviation is IHS.
Both versions can be found although the latter abbreviation is the most common when engraved on gravestones. It is a symbol of the Holy Name of Jesus.
IHS is also an abbreviation of the Latin Phrase in hoc signo meaning, in this sign and is most often used when part of the anagram of the Latin phrase, In Hoc Signo Vinces meaning, in this sign you shall conquer. It is most often seen on family crests, military memorials and symbols of the Knights Templar.
The term ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was initiated when President Bill Clinton signed a law regarding the service of homosexuals in the military, which directed military personnel to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass.’
Leonard P. Matlovich was an Air Force sergeant who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and was gravely wounded. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and two Air Force Commendation medals for gallantry under fire and exemplary service. Yet, despite his service, he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after confessing his sexuality to his commanding officer. His struggle to receive an honourable discharge, rather than the general discharge advocated by the Air Force, triggered a national movement regarding gay rights especially in the military.
Knowing that he had AIDS at a time when it was a death sentence, he designed his own headstone with the idea that it would stand as a memorial for all gay veterans.
His design of a black reflective surface replicating the Vietnam War Memorial incorporated two triangles referencing the pink triangle which was a symbol sewn on the clothes of homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. The left triangle pointing downward is a symbol of defeat. It is highlighted with the legend, ‘Never Again.’ The upward pointing triangle on the right is a symbol of victory with the phrase, ‘Never Forget.’ Although the dates of his birth and death are inscribed on the headstone, his name (Matlovich) is only inscribed at the foot of the memorial.
As an activist for Gay Rights, his words are inscribed on his headstone: ‘When I Was In The Military They Gave Me A Medal For Killing Two Men And A Discharge For Loving One.’ Although eligible to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery he chose to be interred in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. “I believe we must be the same activists in our deaths that we were in our lives,” Leonard Matlovich. A gay veteran’s memorial service is held at his grave every Veteran’s Day.
Members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have purchased adjoining plots with the intention of creating an LGBT veterans memorial.
This marker for Marine Corps veteran and activist Tom Swann is located near Matlovich’s grave. Swann won a lawsuit against the Navy for discrimination against him as a civilian employee after they learned he was gay. He also led the creation of a memorial for LGBT veterans in Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs. Never Give Up Hope Or Give In To Discrimination.
Michael William Hildebrand’s stone does not state that he is gay. However, the use of the pink triangle and the proximity to Matlovich’s grave suggests such. An inscription reads, “It Was Said Of Him That He Had The Gift To Give Love To Those Who Felt Unloved.”
Following the two World Wars, discussion and agreement by Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom (member countries of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) on the burial of the dead created a standardized format encompassing burial sites, layout and size of the gravestones, and the legend on headstones.
Commonwealth countries built burial sites close to combat zones to preserve the link with the battlefield, whereas the United States and France created huge regional cemeteries intended to make a significant impression on people’s minds.
The graves were arranged in straight rows and designed to be perpetual and permanent. The material used in the headstones varied due to the requirement of a weather resistant substance or occurrence of earthquakes.
The standard used ensured that every grave was marked with a headstone, originally 76 centimetres (30”) tall, 38 cm (15”) wide, and 7.6cm (3.0”) thick, with upper case lettering designed by MacDonald Gill.
Each stone contained the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty. In the case of burials of Victoria Cross or George Cross recipients, the regimental badge was supplemented by the Victoria Cross or George Cross emblem.
An appropriate religious symbol was included; most often a cross denoting Christianity, and sometimes a personal dedication chosen by relatives.
Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. J. F. Kennedy
Far away in a distant land, Suddenly struck by death’s strong hand A loving son, strong and brave, Lies buried in a soldier’s grave.
No one knows the silent heartache, Only those can tell Who have lost their loved ones Without saying one farewell. We pictured him safely returning, We longed to clasp his hand, But God has postponed the meeting, Till we meet in a better land.
No one knows the silent heartache,
only those that have lost can tell
Of the grief that’s borne in silence
For the one we loved so well.
And when he gets to Heaven, To Saint Peter he will tell: ‘Just another soldier reporting, Sir. I’ve served my time in Hell.’ Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
Do not ask us if we miss him, There is such a vacant place; Can we e’er forget that footstep, And that dear familiar face.
No loved one stood beside him to bid a last farewell, No word of comfort could he leave to those he loved so well. We little thought his time so short in this world to remain, Nor that from when his home he went he would never return again.
He marched away so bravely, His young head proudly held; His footsteps never faltered, His courage never failed, There on the field of battle, He calmly took his place, He fought for King and Country, And the honour of his race.
…And decades later, the men and women who served are still remembered and accorded the same burial.
Historically, dog statues were built at the feet of medieval women, signifying the loyalty and inferior place of each in the chivalric order. They symbolized loyalty and served as guides on the journey to the afterlife.
In Highgate Cemetery, the grave of Tom Sayers is guarded by his dog. He was a small stature, bare-knuckle boxer and the first to be declared World Heavyweight Champion. In a career lasting 11 years he was only once defeated. His retirement at age 35 was funded by the public (proof of his popularity). However, his retirement was short lived when he died 5 years later. The love of the people for this man was shown once more when they had a statue made of his loyal dog, Lion, to lay next to him for eternity.
ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS, USA
In 1878 special permission was given for a dog to be buried in Chippiannock Cemetery as a memorial to its dedication and loyalty. When Eddie, 5 years old, and Josie, 9 years old, died of diphtheria on the same day, October 22nd, 1878, the dog sat by the grave from dawn to dusk every day. After his death a statue of the dog was erected next to the Dimmick children’s graves. Although there is no name of the dog on the marker, it is known by cemetery employees as “Rex.”
BOSTON, MA, USA
The Forrest Hills Cemetery contains the resting place of Henry Barnard 1810-1853 and his wife Lucinda Barnard 1813-1913. It is surmounted by a sandstone sculpture of a Newfoundland dog, created by Henry Dexter in 1854.
The St. Bernard Hospice in Bern, Switzerland used a dog similar to the St. Bernard breed as a search and rescue dog. A dog named Barry became famous for saving more than 40 people during his lifetime.. A memorial to this dog is located in Le Cimetière des Chiens, (the Cemetery of Dogs) in the Asnières-sur-Seine suburb of Paris. A plaque on the monument states, Il sauva la vie à 40 personnes. Il fut tué par le 41ème He saved the lives of 40 people. He was killed by the 41st. There are several legends regarding the dog which have been disputed including his death. Barry was retired after a 12 year career and brought to Bern where he died at age 14. Read more on the history of this dog at this link, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_(dog)
GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, USA
Sallie was the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War. She accompanied soldiers into battle and was found protecting the dead and wounded on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. She was killed by a bullet 2 years later and buried where she fell. A statue of the brindle-coated pit bull lies at the base of the 11th PA infantry monument in Gettysburg.
The inscription on the stone reads, Sacred / To The Memory Of / William French/ Aged 50, Who Lost His Life On July 13th. 1896 / While Saving A Dog From Drowning / In Highgate Ponds / This Monument / Erected In Commemoration Of / His Brave Deed / Was Raised By Public Subscription / And Was Contributed To By / All Classes Of / Lovers Of Dumb Animals
DAYTON, OHIO, USA
In 1860 when Johnny Morehouse was only 5 years old, he fell into the Miami/Erie canal. His faithful dog tried unsuccessfully to save him. After burial in Woodland Cemetery the dog would not leave the graveside and died of starvation. A stone was erected in 1861. Visitors to the cemetery have reported the ghosts of Johnny and his dog playing in the cemetery.