Held captive in prison thousands of miles from home, German soldiers and sailors made the best of their situation at the prisoner of war camp in Amherst.
“The POW’s worked with their hands and minds to create and to build and to dream even while in captivity,” John O’Donnell, Lead Chaplain for the Army in Atlantic Canada, said during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Amherst Cemetery on July 2.
The 100th-anniversary ceremony was held at a monument commemorating the former burial-ground of Germans soldiers and sailors who died while imprisoned at the Amherst POW camp, which was open during the First World War and held 853 prisoners.
The soldiers marked their time in prison by working inside and outside the camp.
“Many stories about the camp recount how the prisoners repaired railway lines, worked in the coal mines, cleared land, helped out on the local experimental farm, and employed their skills in building, among other things, the stone cairns that still grace the entrance of Dickie Park,” O’Donnell said.
They dreamed of a life beyond war, and O’Donnell hopes we do the same today.
“There are moments when circumstances of life lead us to build fences and walls, times when we feel hopelessness and despair,” O’Donnell said. “And just as they choose to look beyond war and the wire to a better life for themselves and a better place united with their loved ones, to a better world, so to must we continue to dream and strive for a better world.”
Rüdiger Scholz, German Protestant Military Chaplain for the U.S. and Canada finished the ceremony with a prayer calling for peace.
“Guide those who lead our nations in international affairs to help them to pursue common diplomatic paths together that prevent needless conflict but of peace stirring the hearts of the leaders of all nations that they would not use violence to further their cause,” Scholz said. “We long for the day when people will beat their swords into ploughshares. Let us start our efforts towards this new world now and here. In a world that is still torn and broken, we declare that hope overcomes despair, that joy overcomes sorrow, that peace overcomes hostility, that love overcomes hate.”