Read aloud Complete guns with their fallen crews and rows of dead Red Army soldiers dig out the dike builders at the Brandenburg Oderbruch. This area was in mid-April 1945 the scene of one of the last battles of the Second World War. Tens of thousands of German and Soviet soldiers fell within a few days - and many of them are only now being salvaged.

The Oder dykes are being renewed after the devastating flood of 1997 along its entire length of 52 kilometers. In agreement with the Polish authorities, large parts will be rebuilt and raised by 40 to 120 centimeters to withstand a massive flood expected every 200 years. Currently, the dike section on Oderbruch between Lubusz and Hohensaaten (district Märkisch-Oderland) is rehabilitated by the Environmental Agency. The work should be finished by 2005, at the Oderbruch until 2002.

Matthias Freude, President of the Potsdam State Environmental Office, reports that he is not only concerned with human tragedies. Especially the dangerous remnants of the fighting, which formed the prelude to the battle at the western Seelower heights, cause him a headache. In the fierce fighting there were numerous duds that are still stuck in the ground. The remaining ammunition destroyed guns endanger the construction.

This year alone, the budget on the Oderbruch had to be increased by 14 to 64 million marks, because the costs of ammunition recovery and disposal have increased unexpectedly. "You can not fix a dike full of bombs and shells, " Joy said. In 2000, the Environment Agency awarded 14 orders for ammunition clearance to various bodies.

One of them is the state ammunition recovery service in Wünsdorf (Teltow-Fläming district). Its branch office in Frankfurt (Oder) is responsible for the Oderbruch. Squad leader Andre Müller has already searched 1.7 million square meters of space with his five employees. Since March of this year, they have been working on the surface of the dike as well as in the immediate hinterland and hinterland and mark found "fault points" on a map. Immediately before the dredgers arrive, the ammunition is recovered. "This year we have found almost 100, 000 ammunition bodies, that's 16 tons, " says Müller. display

It becomes dangerous when the explosive devices are still sharp. In this case, Müller must decide whether the bombs and grenades are transportable. If they are not, they will be defused on the spot, this year already 20 times. If that is not possible, only the blast remains. "We make five to six rounds of munitions each year with 70 to 80 explosive devices, " says the salvage expert. The non-hazardous material goes to the ammunition cutting plant in Kummersdorf (Oder-Spree district).

In addition to 66 tons of civilian scrap, the workers also encountered the remains of 33 soldiers. "About a quarter of them are Red Army soldiers, " says Müller. These victims of the battle for access to Berlin could not be salvaged after the war: "The numerous grenade impacts completely dug up the soil."

When a dead man is found, Müller informs Kriegsgräberfürsorge in Potsdam. If it concerns a soldier, it is buried in one of the four special Brandenburg cemeteries. Three of them are for German soldiers, the fourth is reserved for Soviet soldiers. The former enemies, who rested side by side by the Oder dykes for more than 50 years, finally find separate resting places.

dpa and bdw

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