This cemetery originally served as a burial ground for the small community in the district of Zehrensdorf. But with the construction of a military training complex in 1909, better known as “Truppenübungsplatz Wünsdorf (-Zossen)”, the civilian population was resettled. From this time the cemetery was used for the purpose of the military.
The Great War
During the First World War two large Prisoner of War camps were maintained in the area, named Halbmondlager and Weinberglager, where more than 150,000 Allied POW’s were interned. These camps held French, British, Russian, Tartar, Bashkir and Indian members of the British Empire who had been captured on the Western Front. After WWI many memorials were erected on the cemetery to honor them.
During the interbellum the German Army slowly started to re-use the military complex of Wünsdorf again, this time not only as an Army training facility but also for weapons development. Even though Germany was denied the possession of tanks during this time, the development and training of the German Panzer Core (German: Panzertruppe) took place here.
During WWII the cemetery was mostly used to bury German soldiers and civilian victims in the area.
After the war the cemetery was left to it’s fate and fell into decay. When the Soviet High Command moved to Zossen-Wünsdorf in 1952 the cemetery became part of the military training ground and was strictly off-limits. The site was vandalised and used for military exercise and target practice and when the Russian Forces withdrew from the area in 1994, the cemetery had turned into a forgotten woodland with most headstones and memorials reduced to rubble.
Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery today
From 2002 the town of Zossen and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission started to restore the cemetery in it’s original form. Today the cemetery holds the graves of a total of 988 POW’s in addition to the civilian graves:
- 409 Russian, Tatar, Georgian and Armenian members of the Russian Army
- 227 members of the Indian 4th Lahore and the 7th Meerut Army
- 263 North and West Africans from French colonies as members of the French Army
- two Belgian fallen
- one Turkish fallen
- 98 German fallen and bomb victims (air raid on Zossen of 15 April 1945)
86 graves of French soldiers that were buried here during WWI were moved (incl. the memorial) in 1926 to the National Cemetery in Sarrebourg (dept. de la Moselle), France.
You can visit the cemetery by following the Hauptallee road North-West from Wünsdorf to Töpchin and turn left about half way at the parking lot. The cemetery is well indicated with a Commonwealth War Graves sign.