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the Faces of Magraten

Magraten, end 40’s

On may 3rd 2016 we visited the open air exhibition “the Faces of Magraten“. This unique project  has been held for the second time. A nonprofit organisation is trying to give each men, buried on the Magraten cemetery, a face. Therefore they need the help of the public, do a lot of research and contact as many organisations as possible.
The Dutch non-profitorganization Stichting Verenigde Adoptanten Amerikaanse Oorlogsgraven (Foundation United Adopters American War Graves), which was founded in 2011 actively aims to honor the men and women who have been buried in overseas American War Cemeteries in the Netherlands and Belgium by conducting research on them, hoping to preserve the memories to them and their sacrifices.
This year they managed to get 4000 pictures beside the stones. We spoke with Jasper van Haren, one of the volunteers, who told us, that, as we speak, the emailbox was exploding with new pictures. The exhebition got some very good attention in the media, wich probably woke up a lot of people who sent in their pictures of their adopted graves. Magraten has 10.023 graves, wich are all (!) adopted. It wil take a lot of time to give all the graves a face.
Magraten is a small village and on practically every corner you can find a reference to the cemetery. We had lunch in a small brasserie “Chriske“. And inside you find an article on the restrooom about the cemetery. At the bar we found a picture of a soldier Charles H. Piltzecker, adopted by the brasserie. Outstanding!

We walked around on the cemetery for 1,5 hrs and it was breathtaking. 4000 stones got a name and….. a face. Many people came to the 4cemetery, although it was tuesday. “We didn’t expected somany people today,” Jasper van Haren said. And that is great: The concept of giving these brave men a face, works for the people. It can give extra meaning to the remembrance of those who gave their lives during the war.
We experienced this ourselves during the battle field tours in the Ardennes. You can tell the stories about the fightings these men experienced, but….as soon as you show a picture of a soldier who got killed on that exact spot, the guests are quiet for a moment. And that’s how it works at Magraten too: The people want to know who that soldier is, who is buried there over 70 years ago. Who is that man that fought for our freedom so many years ago?

5We can only hope, that the other cemetery’s will follow this great example.
And, hey, what a coincidence: Today we heard, that the Belgium cemeteries (Henri Chapelle and Neupré) are going to cooperate with the American Overseas Memorial Day Association-Foundation. They will start a complet new adoption program called ““Honor A Grave Program”. This organisation might be interested to follow the Magraten example. It would be awesome to see the men behind the graves.
For now: A big hand of applause for all the volunteers who worked so hard at the Magraten cemetery! Keep up the good work!

More information about this event: The Faces of Magraten.

An extra note:
Visiting the Magraten program wasn’t the only reason of our visit. We also visited the site because of one of our projects: “The Ethics of Metaldetecting“. (see list of projects on the right side of the website) This story will cost us a few months before publishing. We have to make contact with several other (governmental) organisatons and individuals.