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German military cemetery near Mount Hoverla during the First World War

Opposite the mountain Velyka Kozmeska and at the foot of the highest point of Ukraine, Mount Hoverla in the Carpathians, is a German military burial site from the First World War. This ancient cemetery, which is located in the middle of a dense forest, is truly mystical, silent and even a little bit creepy.

Illustration of a German military cemetery from the First World War

Every summer Hoverla is visited by an incredible number of people. These are travellers, tourists and people who have decided that at least once in their lives they need to conquer this peak. But very few people visit this cemetery. There are quite a few photos of this place on the Internet, so we can conclude that the cemetery is far from forgotten and it even has a mark on the map. At the same time, we know nothing about this burial, who these people are, what events took place on this day, and so on. Today, we will try to shed some light on the events of that time and give possible answers to the questions that arise in connection with this ancient cemetery, which is more than 100 years old.


How to get there?

Before that, of course, we will briefly tell you how to get here. Now it won't be difficult to find this place, as, as mentioned above, it is marked on the map. First of all, you need to get to the Zaroslyak sports centre. From the exit of the P24 motorway to the base, a road built in the Soviet era leads to the base and has most likely not been overhauled since then, so keep in mind that the road is not in the best condition now. Driving by car on this road will take you approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. From the base you should take the green route to Mount Hoverla.

blue and green routes to Mount Hoverla
Directional signs for the blue and green routes to Mount Hoverla

When you get to the place shown in the photo below, you need to continue moving straight from it.

signs for the green route to Mount Hoverla
Directions along the green route to Mount Hoverla

There is even a clear sign that says that from this place we need to walk 900 metres further and it will take us about 15 minutes.

A sign showing the direction to the German military cemetery
Directional sign to the German military cemetery

Congratulations, you are here. This is what the cemetery looks like now, and it is in a relatively well-maintained condition. Date of the photo: 24/09/2023.


About this place

This place is located in the deep mountains, near the border of Poland and Czechoslovakia at that time. In total, there are 44 graves with memorial plaques and three individual graves adjacent to the cemetery without memorial plaques or similar attributes. A stone memorial is located in the centre of the cemetery. The total area of the cemetery is approximately 260 square metres.

old photo of the German military cemetery
Old photo of the cemetery

Each plate bears the name, rank, unit to which it belonged, and date of death, and almost all of those buried died on 30 August 1916. The year 1917 is engraved on the back of the central memorial, presumably the year this cemetery was established. Two individuals are also listed there: Untffz. Tropitz 6/22 and Musk. Horringer 7/22. We assume that these are the probable founders of this cemetery. From these engraved inscriptions we can understand the following:

  • Untffz. (military rank of the time in the German army - Unteroffizier)

  • Tropitz (name of the soldier)

  • 6/22 (Probably a shortened form of the unit to which the soldier belonged, the 6th Komp. R.I.R. 22).

The reverse side of the central memorial of the German military cemetery
The reverse side of the central memorial

Similar inscriptions can be found on all commemorative plates, only in a more extended format.

One of the 44 memorial plaques of the German military cemetery
One of 44 commemorative plates

The Komp. marking stands for "Kompanie" or "Kompagnie" in German and translates to "Company". In the military context, a "company" is a unit of organisation made up of soldiers who may have specific specialised duties or tasks. This marking indicates a specific subdivision of a military regiment or battalion.


The R.I.R. marking stands for: Reserve - reserve, Infanterie - infantry, Regiment - regiment. That is, the marking on the photo above (5 Komp. R.I.R. 22) can be read as: 5th Company, Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 22. A more extended format of the R.I.R. marking can be found on the front of the central memorial, and we can make sure that the decoding is correct. Here it is presented in the format: RES. INF. REG. 22.

The front side of the central memorial of the German military cemetery
The front side of the central memorial

Consider the entire inscription on the front of the central memorial: SEINEN BIS IN DEN TOD GETREUEN HELDEN DAS II BATAJLLON PREUSS. RES. JNF. REG 22. In a free translation, it looks like this: To our loyal heroes until death. II Battalion of the Prussian Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 22.


Consider the three graves located near the cemetery on the right. In 2010, wooden crosses were placed on these graves. Most likely, this was done because of the assumption that these graves were buried in the military of the Russian Empire at that time. This is very unlikely, as in other similar cemeteries soldiers of the Russian Empire were buried together with soldiers of the German and allied Austro-Hungarian empires. This is the case at the cemetery located on the Torun Pass and in the village of Hlynsk, Lviv district, Lviv region, Ukraine.

three unknown graves are located near the German military cemetery
Three unknown graves near the German military cemetery

There is an assumption and a high probability that these graves belong to soldiers of the Jewish faith. When organising such military burials, they tried to adhere to the principle of not burying Jewish soldiers with Christian soldiers.


A few more details of the present day related to this deeply historical place. In 2010, on 28 August, the cemetery was dedicated. The service was conducted by Archbishop Augustine of Lviv and Halych (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate) and Dean of the Roman Catholic Church, Father Kazymyr Halimurka.

Dedication of the German military cemetery in 2010
Dedication of the German military cemetery on 28 August 2010

Before this event, volunteers from Kyiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, Uzhhorod, Lviv, Moscow and Tula spent several days working on the improvement of this German military cemetery. All the work was carried out with the support of the foundation of Anatoly Lisitsyn, a member of the State Duma of Russia, Reporter writes. According to the deputy himself, the foundation allocated $5,000 for this purpose. At the dedication ceremony, the deputy laid a wreath from the Consulate General of Russia in Lviv.


Historical events

As we have already found out, soldiers of the II Battalion of the Prussian Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 22 are buried in the cemetery. We managed to find some information about this regiment. It was created in October 1914. According to this information, the headquarters of the II Battalion and the Regiment was located in the city of Ratybor, now in Poland. We are interested in the year 1916. According to the records, in 1916 the Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 22, abbreviated as R.I.R. 22, was subordinated to the 117. Infanterie-Division (117th Infantry Division) - this division was an independent major unit of the German Empire during the First World War. It was a military division, that is, one that was created during the war. Presumably, this division was part of the Karpathenkorps (Carpathian Corps), a large unit of the German army during the First World War that existed from 1916 to 1918. At the time of its formation, the corps was subordinated to the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army, which was led by Archduke Charles, later the Austrian Emperor.


We also find data on the battles in which the 117th Infantry Division took part in July, August, September, October and December 1916 in the areas near the burial site:

  • 22 August 1916 - 31 August 1916: August battles on the Tatar Pass (another name for the Yablunytsia Pass) and in the Ludova area (most likely, this refers to Mount Baba Liudova, Verkhovyna district).

  • 1 September 1916 - 29 September 1916: The Battle of September in the Carpathians

  • 1 October 1916 - 30 July 1917: Positional battles in the forested Carpathians

  • 15 October 1916: On Mount Smotrets (now commonly called Smotrych)

  • 4 December 1916: The Battle of Hryhorivka (a meadow in the Carpathians with an incredible view of the Hoverla and Petros mountains)


We also found entries from the combat calendar of the Karpathenkorps of the German Empire during the First World War for 1916:

  • 1-26 August: fighting around Baba Liudova and near Yablunytsia

  • 2 August: storming of the mountains Halya Mykhailova (now called Pohrebina) and Halya Lukavets (this is the old name of the mountain, it was not possible to determine the exact location, information was found that it is adjacent to Mount Pohrebina on the north-western side, the probable location, and an old German photo from the First World War called "View of Halya Lukavets" was also found)

  • 3 August: storming of Watonarka (a mountain range that is part of the Hrynia Mountains) and Liudowa

  • 4-6 August: the pursuit to Yablunitsa

  • 6 August: to Plaika (unknown location, presumably Mount Plai)

  • 7 August - 2 September: battles near Yablunytsia and Mount Skupova

  • 11 August: Mount Skupova

  • 11-31 August: fighting on the Tatar Pass and in the Ludova area

  • 17 August - 5 September: the Battle of Pnivier (a peak in the Hryniava mountain range)

  • 19-20 August: storming of Krynta (presumably Krynta meadow) and Stepansky (presumably Mount Stepansky)

  • 21 August - 2 September: the battles of Menczul (from the Polish Munczel) and Gora Piaskowa (probable location)

  • 27 August - 8 September: fighting near Mount Lystuvata

  • 1-29 September: September Battle in the Carpathians

  • 3-29 September: the Battle of Ludowa

  • From 1 October: trench warfare in the forested Carpathians

Thus, as can be seen from the two combat calendars, in 1916 there were active battles in the Carpathians, mainly for positions on the tops of certain mountains, but we have not found records that could point us to the events of the specific day of interest (30.08.1916). Hypothetically, the II Battalion of the Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 22 could have participated in many of these battles. We also already know that this regiment was part of the 117th Infantry Division.


Next, we turned to the fifth volume, part two of the book, entitled "The Last Austro-Hungarian War 1914-1918". The translation is free, and in the original it looks like this: "ÖSTERREICH-UNGARNS LETZTER KRIEG 1914-1918". Here we managed to find a lot of information that interested us. The book was published by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence and the Military Archives. From the records we understand that at the end of August 1916, the 117th Infantry Division was considered a new arrival. Further, we find records stating that an army centre was located in Klauzura Kozmieska, presumably today's Velyka Kozmeska Mountain (we recall that the burial site is located on the slope of this mountain). Also, at the end of August 1916, six battalions of the 117th Infantry Division with heavy artillery were united here. This grouping, plus the troops of the 34th Division, was planned to be used in the assault on Mount Kukul, which was then under the control of the Russian Empire. This mountain is 10 km away from Mount Velyka Kozmeska, and 2-3 km less if you follow the ridge. The assault was to take place on 30 August 1916. We find an indication of a specific date and we are already beginning to form an understanding of what could have happened on that day.


This assault was necessary to thwart the plans of General Lechytsky (a military leader of the Russian Empire, commander of armies in the First World War). Without going into the strategic military details, the intention was to crush the troops of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires stationed in the southern tip of Bukovyna with a "pincer strike" and break through into Hungary.


Further on, we find a specific entry that states that on 30 August 1916, the day before General Lechytsky's offensive, a short attack was made in the Forest Carpathians. Units of the German 117th Infantry Division and the 34th Infantry Division attacked the Russian 32nd Infantry Division on Mount Kukul and stormed all the positions on this height. The Russians attempted to launch a counter-offensive, but were unable to regain the lost ground. The defeat of the 32nd Division gave the Russians the impression that the enemy had anticipated the planned "pincer attack", which could not be implemented afterwards.


Conclusions

Thus, based on the information presented, it can be assumed that the soldiers buried in this cemetery could very likely have participated in the assault on Mount Kukul, which was successful on their part. In turn, this assault disrupted General Lechytskyi's plans to break through into Hungary. The inscriptions on the back of the central memorial also suggest that the cemetery was created by two brothers of the fallen soldiers of the same Reserve Infantry Regiment 22, which was part of the 117th Infantry Division, and who probably also took part in the assault but were lucky to survive that day.

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