German and United States Second World War Military Cemeteries in Italy

Cultural Perspectives

by Birgit Urmson (Author)
©2018 Thesis VIII, 390 Pages


Styles of soldiers’ commemoration reveal national self-images. US WW II military cemeteries in Italy and their German counterparts are analyzed as art-historical artifacts. Their aesthetics, together with results of archival research, reveal a self-assured US united in values, projecting victory and Pax-Americana while a struggling Germany searches for its democratic identity and a place within the community of civilized nations. In Italy, the US relied on imported European classicism as taught at the influential American Academy in Rome and interpreted through the personalities of the cemeteries’ designers. Germany’s designs, rejecting Nazi classicism, progressed through an inherited unique blend of medievalism with modernism toward a contemporary style that integrates modernism and expressionism. The US honors soldiers’ death as worthy sacrifice for the nation’s greatness and the world’s future. Germany focuses on mourning and interprets soldiers’ death as tragedy whose only meaning can be an admonition to seek peace.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Abbreviations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Author’s Preface
  • Introduction
  • I. US Organizing for Remembrance
  • The Players
  • The Situation in Italy
  • The Siting Process
  • Site Acquisition at Anzio/Nettuno
  • Site Acquisition at Impruneta
  • II. Germany Organizing for Remembrance: Post-WW II VDK’s Mission
  • The VDK Resumes its Work
  • Evolving New Moral Principles
  • New Design Guidelines
  • Robert Tischler, Architect
  • Tischler’s Work in Mussolini’s Italy: Fascist Theatrics in Stone
  • Quero: A Totenburg in Modernist Form
  • Pordoi: A Totenburg in the Dolomites
  • Pinzano: Fascist Megalomania
  • III. Anzio/Nettuno: Space of Triumph
  • The ABMC’s Anzio/Nettuno
  • Harbeson’s Hunger for Land
  • Eric Gugler, Architect
  • Gugler’s Anzio Design: A Vision of Grandeur
  • Gugler’s Design
  • Gugler’s Romantic Design Impulses
  • Ralph Griswold’s “American Space”
  • Gardens of Respite from Death
  • The Saga of the Lone Pine
  • Transcending the Classicist Model
  • IV. The Best of American Art? Paul Manship and his Sculptures at Anzio/Nettuno
  • Denial of Death’s Sting
  • Reaching to the Heavens: The Chapel
  • The Celestial Ceiling. Victory Eternalized in the Stars
  • The Glory of the Armed Forces
  • A Legacy to Civilization: The Statue of Orpheus
  • Gugler’s (Unrealized) Monumental Dreams
  • Hall of History
  • “Shrine to Freedom”
  • V. Impruneta, American Modern Classicism: Grandeur and Intimacy
  • Designing Impruneta’s Memorial: A Labor of Love and Dedication
  • Evolving Design of the Memorial
  • The Pylon, Object of Controversy
  • Quest for the Perfect Form
  • Michael Rapuano’s Brilliant Contribution
  • VI. Impruneta’s Patriotic Embellishment: Message and “Beauty”
  • Barry Faulkner, Mosaicist
  • Sidney Waugh, Sculptor
  • Inscriptions: Herolds of Ideology
  • A Slap on the Wrist. Riparian Rights: A Lesson in Manners
  • VII. Sic Transit Gloria
  • Critics Pan ABMC’s Projects
  • Marshall and Eisenhower Come to the Defense
  • Fault Lines Outdate the Cemeteries
  • VIII. Robert Tischler’s Continued Hegemony in Italy: Continuity and Change
  • Pomezia: Italy’s Gift to Germany
  • Costermano: Modesty and Mourning
  • Cassino Crypt Design: Tischler’s Fallback
  • IX. Cassino/Caira: Between Tradition and Innovation
  • Tischler’s Design
  • Sculpture and its Message
  • The Cemetery’s Grave Area
  • No Hilltop Monument
  • X. The Futa Pass: New Form Makes an Appropriate Statement
  • The VDK’s Search for New Talent
  • A Radical Departure?
  • Commission and Construction
  • Form is the Message
  • Helmut Lander’s Mosaic. The Power of Abstraction
  • Fritz Kühn’s Crown of Thorns. Suffering in Steel and Iron
  • From Windswept Wilderness to the Mountain of the Dead
  • Landscape Design: Landscape Architect Walter Rossow and Horticulturist Helmut Bournot
  • Mass Death Visualized
  • Fields of Graves
  • The Planting Design
  • XI. The Futa Pass Cemetery: An Exoneration of Weimar Republic’s “Aberrant Art?”
  • Creation of an Architectural Style. The Modern from Tradition
  • Postlude: The Reception of the Futa Pass Cemetery by the Press
  • Epilogue
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Archives
  • Books and Journals
  • Series index

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Fig. 1 Chateau-Thierry by Paul Cret. (ABMC) photo by Warrick Page

Fig. 2 ABMC’s logo

Fig. 3 AGRS’ Cemetery at Anzio/Nettuno. Titlepage of brochure. (Rome, Archivio degli Affari Esteri) Affari Esteri 1948–58, Busta F.C.P.2

Fig. 4 The Italian design proposal. (NARA) RG 117, Entry 9, Box 112, Folder 687 (8–22–47 to 12–31–48)

Fig. 5 Aerial photo of AGRS cemetery in the cultural landscape. (NARA) RG 117 Entry 9, Box 72

Fig. 6 VDK’s logo. (Volksbund Deutsche Krieggräberfürsorge)

Fig. 7 Mosaic of Dove of Peace on terrace in Costermano. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv) Kunsthandwerk–Costermano

Fig. 8 La Cambe, Normandy. Entrance with view on mourning figures. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 9 Robert Tischler’s group crosses in WWI cemetery at Consenvoye, France. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 10 Robert Tischler’s Annaberg. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 11 Quero seen from the West. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 12 Quero. Crypt with altar and frescoes of soldiers. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 13 Quero. Angel holding shield with VDK logo. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 14 Pordoi. Photo by Nicholas Philpot

Fig. 15 Pinzano. (VDK Bildarchiv) Kunsthandwerk_Pinzano

Fig. 16 Anzio/Nettuno: John Harbeson’s 1st plan. (Smithsonian Institute) Eric Gugler papers, 1889–1977. 4.5: Memorials, 1929–1977

Fig. 17 Anzio/Nettuno: Total view. (ABMC) photo by Bob Utah

Fig. 18 Anzio Nettuno: Gugler’s model of the memorial (NARA) RG117, Cont 323, Box 19

Fig. 19 Anzio/Nettuno: The memorial. Photo by Domenico Tomei ← 1 | 2 →

Fig. 20 Anzio/Nettuno: Pencil drawing by Eric Gugler. (Avery Architectural Library, Columbia University)

Fig. 21 Anzio/Nettuno: Grave-fields. Photo by Domenico Tomei

Fig. 22 Anzio/Nettuno: by Ralph Griswold. (Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System) Ralph E. Griswold, GWSM, Inc. Collection, 1912–1988, Map-Case 5, Drawer 2, Folder 27

Fig. 23 Anzio/Nettuno: North garden. Photo by Author

Fig. 24 Anzio/Nettuno: Ornate entrance gate to Anzio/Nettuno cemetery. Photo by Domenico Tomei

Fig. 25 Watercolor by Eric Gugler (NARA) RG 117, Con 322, Box 19

Fig. 26 Anzio/Nettuno: “Comrades in Arms” by Paul Manship. Photo by Domenico Tomei

Fig. 27 Anzio/Nettuno: „Remembrance“, Relief by Paul Manship. Photo by Domenico Tomei

Fig. 28 Anzio/Nettuno: „Resurrection“, Relief by Paul Manship. Photo by Domenico Tomei

Fig. 29 Anzio/Nettuno: The celestial ceiling in Anzio/Nettuno’s chapel. Photo by Domenico Tomei

Fig. 30 Anzio/Nettuno: Map in the museum (NARA) RG 117 CON 304 Box 17. pdf.

Fig. 31 Anzio/Nettuno: Orpheus in celestial sphere in the south garden. Photo by Author

Fig. 32 Impruneta Cemetery: Total view. (ABMC) photo by Don Savage

Fig. 33 Reception room at Impruneta. (ABMC) photo by Don Savage

Fig. 34 Impruneta: The memorial with pylon. (ABMC) photo by Don Savage

Fig. 35 Impruneta: View from the north atrium to wall of the missing. (ABMC) photo by Don Savage

Fig. 36 Impruneta: Michael Rapuano’s plan. (NYHS) PR 042 Box 452, Florence Cemetery File No. 7.

Fig. 37 Impruneta: Chapel with Barry Faulkner’s mosaic of “Remembrance.” (ABMC) photo by Don Savage

Fig. 38 Impruneta: “The Angel of Peace” by Sidney Waugh. (Smithsonian Art Collection) Peter A. Juley & Son Collection ← 2 | 3 →

Fig. 39 Impruneta: “The Angel of Peace” by Sidney Waugh. (Smithsonian Art Collection) Peter A. Juley & Son Collection

Fig. 40 Impruneta: North atrium with inscriptions. (ABMC) photo by Don Savage

Fig. 41 Pomezia: View toward the baldachin. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 42 Pomezia: Tischler’s plan. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv) Kunsthandwerk-Pomezia.pdf

Fig. 43 Pomezia: Baldachin with sculpture. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv) Kunsthandwerk-Pomezia.pdf

Fig. 44 Pomezia: Detail of figures. Photo by Author

Fig. 45 Costermano: Grave-fields. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 46 Costermano: Entrance of cemetery. Photo by Author

Fig. 47 Costermano: Exterior of chapel. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 48 Costermano: Mourning youth by Hans Wimmer. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 49 Cassino: Robert Tischler’s design for a crypt with restored castle ruin. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 50 Caira: Total view. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 51 Caira: Model with chapel. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 52 Caira: Entrance of building to the cemetery. Photo by Author

Fig. 53 Caira: Interior of entrance building with sculpture „Trauer und Trost.“ (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv) Kunsthandwerk-Caira.pdf

Fig. 54 Caira: The cemetery’s plan on stone. Photo by Author

Fig. 55 Caira: In harmony with the surrouding landscape. Photo by Author

Fig. 56 Futa-Pass Cemetery: The monument. Photo by Kai Kappel

Fig. 57 Futa-Pass: Cemetery pathway along the spiral wall. View looking West. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 58 Futa-Pass Cemetery: The spiral wall winds around the mountain. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 59 Futa-Pass Cemetery: View from the entrance. (Berlin, Akademie der Künste), Dieter-Oesterlen-Archiv 298 F.12 photo by Heinz Finke ← 3 | 4 →

Fig. 60 Futa-Pass Cemetery: View of monument from shortcut pathway. (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International 24b) photo by Giorgio Galeotti

Fig. 61 Futa-Pass Cemetery: Forecourt with towering wall. (Berlin, Akademie der Künste) Dieter-Oesterlen-Archiv 298 F.31, photo by Fritz Menzel

Fig. 62 Futa Pass Cemetery: Empty court of honor (Arteimagine, Barga) photo by Caterina Salvi

Fig. 63 Futa-Pass Cemetery: Mosaic by Helmut Lander in court of honor. (Berlin, Akademie der Künste) Dieter-Oesterlen-Archiv, 298 F.47, photo by Fritz Menzel

Fig. 64 Futa-Pass Cemetery: Crown of thorns in the crypt. (Berlin, Akademie der Künste), Dieter-Oesterlen-Archiv 299 F.4. Photographer unknown

Fig. 65 Futa-Pass Cemetery: Aereal view. (Berlin Akademie der Künste), Dieter-Oesterlen-Archiv 303 F. Photographer unknown

Fig. 66 Oesterlen’s Model: (Berlin Akademie der Künste), Dieter-Oesterlen-Archiv. 295 F.8, photo by Hans Wagner

Fig. 67 Final lay out of grave-fields. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 68 Futa-Pass Cemetery: View from south-east with water basin. (Arteimagine, Barga), photo by Caterina Salvi

Fig. 69 Futa-Pass Cemetery: View from the west on grave-fields and monument. (Kassel, VDK Bildarchiv)

Fig. 70 Watercolor by Hans Scharoun (Berlin, Akademie der Künste), Hans Scharoun Archiv n. 2512

Fig. 71 Design for a theatre by Wasili Luckhardt, (Berlin, Akademie der Künste), Luckhardt-und-Anker-Archiv, WV 10 F.1.3.-2.-2.1.1. Photographer unknown

Fig. 72 Monument to the “Märzgefallenen” by Walter Gropius, (Berlin, Bauhaus Archiv)

Fig. 73 Futa-Pass Cemetery: Monument in the evening sun. (Arteimagine, Barga), photo by Caterina Salvi

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AARome American Academy in Rome

ABMC American Battle Monuments Commission

AGRS American Graves Registration Service

CFA United States Commission on Fine Arts

FRG Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)

GDR German Democratic Republic (East Germany)

LL PP Ministero dei Lavori Publici

NSDAP or NS National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi)

QMG Quartermaster General of the Army

US United States of America

VDK Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge

WW I First World War

WW II Second World War

Abbreviations for Archives

AA Auswärtiges Amt, Berlin

AdK Akademie der Künste, Berlin

NARA National Archives and Records Administration

NYHS New York Historical Society

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This book could not have been written without the help and support of many people. I am very thankful to them all.

My husband, John Urmson, for his unceasing support and indispensable editorial help.

Prof. Dr. Christof Mauch, Professor of American History at Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität, Munich and director of the Rachel Carson Center, Munich for his support and generous help at the right moments. PD Dr. Christian Fuhrmeister, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, for his support and many inspiring conversations. Renata Catambas and Thomas Lemaître at Peter Lang Publishing for their dedicated stewardship during the production process. The late Garrett Eckbo, landscape architect, for his inspiration and friendship. Dr. Hermann Glaser, for his inspiring conversations and sharing his insights into FRG’s post-WW II culture. Professor Dr. Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn and Professor Dr. rer. hort. habil. (emeritus), Gert Gröning for their enrouragement to pursue this subject. Dr. David H. Wright, Professor (emeritus) of Art History, UC Berkeley for his generous sharing of his knowledge of AARome. Dr. Richard Ingersoll of Florence, Italy, architectural historian, for first suggesting that I visit the Futa Pass cemetery. Prof. Dr. Paul Groth for his inspiration and support.

The late J.B. Jackson for opening my eyes to the American Space. Professor Clare Marcus (emerita) of UC Berkeley for encouraging me to explore unusual subjects. Prof. (emeritus) Marc Treib, Prof. Dr. Margret Lovell. Dr. Gray Brechin for bibliographical suggestions. Special thanks go to Monsignore Timothy Verdon for his interest and support, and to Prof. (emeritus) Peter Selz for his enthusiasm and vision.

Dr. Anne Schmedding for generously sharing her knowledge and work on Dieter Oesterlen. Dr. Kate Lemay for her early support and sharing important sources; Dr. Giacomo Calandra di Roccolino for sharing his views on the Futa Pass cemetery. Professor Kai Kappel, Humboldt Universität, Berlin for his encouragement.

Special thanks go to archivist Peter Paessler at VDK Kassel for his unceasing support and for providing me with vital material. Jürgen Kaulfuß ← 7 | 8 → and Tanja Morgenstern, at the Baukunstarchiv of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. David Grinnell, University of Pittsburgh Archives for his generous help. Margaret Smithglass, Avery Architectural Library. Francesca Maroncelli for helping me maneuver through archives in Rome. Jason Miller and David Eifler, librarians at the Environmental Design Library, UC Berkeley; Waverley Lowell, curator of the Berkeley Environmental Design Archives; Miranda Hambro, Archivist. Sim Smiley for her indispensible research help at National Archives and Records Administration. Nadine Granoff for finding and copying material at the Smithsonian Institute. Domenico Tomei, His Honour Nicholas Philpot and Caterina Salvi for usage of their photos. Robyn Adams for editing photos.

Anastasia Meadors, Director of Art and Design at the UC Berkeley Extension, Kathleen Bryant, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, California State University. Inge Horton and Dr. Johan van der Zande for reading early drafts. Dr. med. Guy Micco, Convener, Berkeley Life and Death Project, for inviting me to lecture on this subject. Prof. Dr. Thomas W. Laqueur, Marilyn Yalom, author of the “American Resting Place”. Prof. Dr. R. John Gillis.

I also wish to thank the following: Sara Russell for helping me to translate labyrinthine Italian official documents. The late Dale Johnson for his editing an early version. Prof. Michael Schneider, Senior Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts, for sharing his knowledge on the symbolism of ratios. Special thanks got to Petra Lander for sharing insights into her fathers’ works. Helgard Kühn for sharing information. Dr. Rolf Wernstedt for a crucial conversation on the VDK in September 2014.

Tedice Santini, Georgio Barbarino and Vasco Galliotti for sharing their wartime and partisan experiences in Italy. Dr. Steffi Roettgen, Professor (Emeritus) of Art History, Professor Dr. (med.) Peter Barglow, Dr. Margret Schäfer and Prof. Gayle Greene for their early encouragement; Dr. Larry Marietta, John Walcko, Marco Tovani, Illaria di Giangirolamo, Eliza O’Malley and Dr. Georg Biester, for sustaining me through music. Also thanks for support go to Graziella Cosimini, Isabella Negri, Grazia Santini, Kiki Lambrou, Caroyl Labarge, Susi Gauld, Kitty Hughes, Anne Kroeber, Dr. Anne Maclachlan, Birgitt Claus, Gerd Gauglitz, Gudrun Wolf, Bill and Solace Welch, Professor Dr. Wendy Martin, Irena Chrul.

Special thanks to my family: My sister, Ute Armanski, my brother, Professor Dr. Gerhard Armanski, to my children Carl, Claire and Julian and ← 8 | 9 → grandchildren Helen, John, Carmen, Grace, Bradley, Willa and Elizabeth for sustaining my joy in life.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this work to my mentally disabled son, Carl, and the male members of my German family who were killed or misssed in WW II.

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VIII, 390
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
US Remembrance Germany Remembrance American Art Eric Gugler American Modern Classicism »Aberrant Art«
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. VIII, 390 pp., 35 fig. col., 41 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Birgit Urmson (Author)

German/American art historian Birgit Urmson studied art-history in Munich, Paris, Vienna and at U.C. Berkeley, CA. She holds a MA in environmental design, a MA in art-history from U.C. Berkeley, and a PhD in American Cultural History from the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. She authored the novel “Germaine” and pursues classical singing. She has a large family and lives in Oakland, CA and in Tuscany.


Title: German and United States Second World War Military Cemeteries in Italy
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400 pages