Rewind – Glencree German War Cemetery

Rewind – Glencree German War Cemetery

By Sean Heffernan 

I bet a lot of the people reading this week’s column know of (and some may have even visited) the war cemeteries in Ypres in Belgium or Arlington in Washington DC, but did you know there is a war cemetery in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains?

When I was younger, I used to love going on Sunday drives in and around the Dublin-Wicklow Mountains with my late father, so when a friend last year asked me if I’d be up for going on such a drive with him, I jumped at the chance.

It was thankfully a lovely sunny day and I was admiring the stunning views as we drove through Glencree, when my friend suddenly stopped the car and got out.


I curiously got out too, and he then proceeded to tell me that we were parked beside the German War Cemetery, where German soldiers who had died in Ireland were buried.

As those who know me know only too well, I have a keen interest in all things historical, especially if they are located on the island of Ireland.

When I got home I went online to try and find out as much information as I could on this unusual burial ground.

During World War II, there were a number of German Luftwaffe pilots who crashed and died on Irish soil, and German Navy men who washed ashore too.

Back then we didn’t have the DNA and other identification tools that we have today, so it was impossible to try to identify a lot of these dead bodies.

There are 146 graves in the cemetery, with six being soldiers who died in the First World War, but who were later reinterred there from their original resting places, and 46 civilian detainees, who were being deported to Canada aboard the ship the S.S. Arandora Star, when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat.

The most famous person buried in Glencree has already been mentioned in a previous column by yours truly, namely Major Hermann Górzt.

He was the chap who fled out the window and did a runner, when the Gardai raided Templeogue House after receiving a tip off.


In 1947 Górtz was handed a deportation order and was told he would be soon heading back to Germany.

He dreaded the thought of going back, as he feared he would be handed over to the Soviets on arrival.

When it became clear there was to be no turning back on that decision by the authorities, the Major swallowed a poisonous substance, and died in Mercers Hospital near Stephens Green, a building long since gone.

Though only 25 minutes drive from Tallaght Village, the cemetery is located in a sliver of County Wicklow that’s bordered on three sides by the Capital County.

On a headstone in the grounds is a poem written by Professor Stan o’ Brien; it reads

“It was for me to die under an Irish sky

There finding birth in good Irish earth

What I dreamed and planned bound me to my Fatherland

But war sent me to sleep in Glencree

Passion and pain were my loss-my gain

Pray as you pass to make good my loss.”

So, the next time you go for a drive up the mountains remember to keep an eye out for the sign directing you to the “Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof”.

Share This