Junction City Union
For about three years during World War II, from 1943 until 1946, a group of German and Italian prisoners of war were housed at Fort Riley. Today, 73 of these prisoners are buried in a cemetery on post — 62 Germans and 11 Italians. They’re among roughly 350,000 prisoners of war the United States housed in hundreds of camps on American soil during WWII.
Nov. 21, a ceremony was held to honor them.
Col. Carsten Döding of the German army and Maj. Emanuele Malberti of the Italian army both of whom are currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth, spoke during the ceremony.
“Wars cast long shadows, to include generations who did not experience them firsthand,” Döding said. “No, the past is not over. On the contrary, the further back the wars of the last century lie, the more important remembrance becomes.”
He spoke of honoring the memories and courage of the prisoners buried on Fort Riley even as he condemned what they had fought for.
“Today we know that my German countrymen had fought for unacceptable political goals,” Döding said. “This peaceful site however, where so many have found their last resting place, gives the dead back their dignity, and the living a place to mourn.”
Germany is now an ally of the United States and he expressed hope to see these relations continue.
Malberti expressed the value of keeping history alive by teaching it and by making sure its mistakes are not repeated and of the strength of current relations between the United States and former Axis powers.
“American, German and Italian soldiers, now work side by side, with a profound sense of duty and of spiritual sacrifice for the promotion of international security, the safeguarding of democratic values and for a better world,” he said.
He stressed this throughout his comments.
“These are soldiers we remember today as proof that our nations have more in common than we have differences,” Malberti said.
He spoke of the ways in which Italy and the United States were united and of honoring the fallen.
“Today, we humbly and respectfully show our gratitude,” he said. “German and Italian soldiers buried here at Fort Riley were captured on the battlefields of Europe and Africa and transported thousands of miles away from their homes and loved ones to the United States. They were treated with dignity and respect … Through the memory of these soldiers, today we appreciate the importance sharing those fundamental democratic values, which go beyond the physical boundaries of our countries. Our countries are now more united than ever.”