German Prisoners of War, Asheville
The monument consists of a rectangular granite block resting on a massive granite slab. Lines of poetry from Goethe are inscribed in both German and English. The names of eighteen German POWs who died in an Asheville hospital during World War One are listed in two columns beneath the poetry. Prior to this monument being erected the sailors graves had not been marked by “neither their countrymen, nor friends in America.” The purpose behind the monument was to honor patriotism and loyalty even by an enemy and give comfort to relatives of the dead still living in Germany. The granite block is seventy-six inches long, forty-five inches high and nineteen inches wide. The base is ninety-five inches long by thirty-six inches wide.
Images (courtesy of Rusty Long): Inscription | View of the cemetery
Front: IN MEMORY OF EIGHTEEN GERMAN SAILORS WHO DIED IN THE / UNITED STATES ARMY HOSPITAL AT ASHEVILLE / 1918-1919 / NICHT GROSSERN VORTEIL WUSST’ICHZU NENNEN / ALS DES’FEINDES VERDIENST ERKENNEN / NO GREATER GAIN FOR THE HUMAN SPIRIT / THAN A SENSE OF OUR FOEMAN’S MERIT / [Left column] KARL VON ASPERN / KARL BENING / ADAM BIFFAR / WILHELM DENECKE / KARL FLUM / FRITZ HOFFMAN / HANS JAKOBI / KARL KILPER / EMIL KOBE / [Right column] KARL KOSCHMIEDER / HEINRICH LOCHOW / HERMAN MENZEL / JOHANN WILHELM MEYER / JOHANN MEYERHOFF / VIKTOR WILHELM RIEKE / RICHARD PAUL SCHLAUSE / WILHELM STOCKHAUSEN / FRITZ HERMANN WAHNSCHAFFE
Front below inscription: ERECTED BY KIFFIN ROCKWELL POST AMERICAN LEGION
Base, top face: 1932
November 21, 1932
35.600000 , -82.570310 View in Geobrowse
DigitalHeritage.org. “Riverside Cemetery,” Digital Heritage, Connecting Appalachian Culture and tradition with the world, http://digitalheritage.org, (accessed August 21, 2015) Link
Lincecum, Stephanie. “In Memory Of Eighteen German Sailors Who Died In The U.S. Army Hospital At Asheville, NC 1918-1919,” Southern Graves, (accessed June 23, 2015) Link
NC Department of Cultural Resources. “Asheville Monument To German Prisoners of War,” (accessed June 23, 2015) Link
Painter, Jacqueline Burgin. The German Invasion OF Western North Carolina: A Pictorial History, (The Overmountain Press, 1997), (accessed June 23, 2015) Link
“Riverside Cemetery Walking Tour,” by Charles D. Owen High School, 1997, p. 8, (accessed August 22, 2015) Link
“Riverside Cemetery. Ceremony Dedicating Memorial To German Sailors Buried In Riverside Cemetery,” in E. M. Ball Collection (ball2135), D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections. University of North Carolina Asheville, (accessed August 21, 2015) Link
Kiffin Rockwell Post, American Legion
Events began at 2:30 PM with a procession from the cemetery gates led by uniformed Kiffin Rockwell Legion Post members carrying the American flag, their post flag and a German flag. They were followed by five members of Der Stahlhelm, a German veteran’s organization, carrying their flags and an American flag. G.O. Shepard opened the program in English describing the purpose of the ceremony followed by Kurt Sell from German radio doing the same in German. After an invocation a quartet sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and then the German national anthem “Deutschland Uber Alles”. Thomas Black, commander of the Kiffin Rockwell post, presented the monument to Dr. F.W. von Pritzwitz, German Ambassador to the United States. During his address the ambassador accepted this symbol of reconciliation on behalf of the German people. He also called for cooperation in building a lasting peace and “in front of the graves of those who died during the war it becomes self-evident that love should guide the world and prevent further willful destruction of human lives and civilization.” Following the ambassador’s address a benediction in German was said by Dr. J. Brainerd Thrall pastor of the First Congregational Church and then a three volley salute by the honor guard. The American and German versions of “Taps” were played before the ceremony ended with the quartet singing Braga’s “Angles Serenade.”
During World War One several thousand German sailor Prisoners of War were transferred from Ellis Island, NY to a detention center in Hot Springs, NC. Eighteen of those sailors died during a typhoid epidemic and are buried in Riverside Cemetery. In 1932 the Asheville American Legion post decided to recognize those who had died. In a spirit of forgiveness from feelings of hatred and anger over German atrocities during World War One the planned monument created enthusiasm in Asheville and support from Washington, DC.
The ceremony was broadcast live by NBC on the radio as was a translated rebroadcast in Germany. Paramount News and Universal Newsreel were on hand to film and make recordings in both English and German. Author Jaqueline Painter in The German Invasion of Western North Carolina noted the irony of a headline that appeared in the Asheville newspaper on the same day as the dedication: “Adolf Hitler Now Looms As Chancellor Of Germany.”
The American Legion post that sponsored the POW monument was named for Kiffin Rockwell who died in aerial combat in France.
The memorial is located in the Riverside Cemetery, 53 Birch Street, Asheville, NC. The Riverside Cemetery consists of 87 carefully landscaped acres of rolling hills and gardens overlooking the French Broad River. Prominent North Carolinians buried at Riverside include authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry, Confederate generals James Martin and Robert B. Vance and the politician Zebulon B. Vance. The Thomas L. Clingman monument is also located there. The cemetery, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is designated a Buncombe County Treasured Tree Preserve.
The memorial stands under mature shady trees.