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By Jon Bishop

jbishop@nashobapub.com

DEVENS — The Fort Devens cemetery was the site of the annual German and Italian POW Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday, bringing together representatives of the United States, Germany and Italy, enemies during World War II.

Through the laying of wreaths and singing of national anthems, it was an event to remember the 22 Germans and two Italians who are buried at Devens. The soldiers were people who, in the words of Ann Shoesmith, president of the Associated German Societies of New England, “were proud of their homelands.”

They were sons and brothers, they were fathers. They were “in touch daily with their own mortality.”

“Their hidden fear must have been overwhelming,” she said.

And they were not monstrous servants of fascism and Nazism.

“These prisoners were pawns of dictatorships,” she said.

Lt. Col. Steven Egan, commander of the Garrison at Fort Devens, said that these prisoners of war were not treated differently while they were here — in fact, they rest right next to American soldiers. Now, as then, they were treated as if they were compatriots.

This show of respect was not lost on the foreign dignitaries who were present.

Helmut Landes, the Deputy Consul General of Germany in Boston, said that the POWs were “treated with respect and dignity,” and thus, Germany looks “back with great gratitude on the American nation.”

He, as did Egan, mentioned how the U.S. and Germany are allies once again, and events such as this “nourish the strong ties of friendship between our nations.”

“Our common legacy and our deep friendship” gives us strength, he said, especially now that Germany and the U.S., along with Italy, are united in a fight against the terrorism that threatens all countries.

It is, as Luigi Munno, the Deputy Consul General of Italy in Boston, noted, “a testament to just how far we’ve come.” He, like the others, said that Germany, the U.S. and Italy are tied together.

But he said we must always be vigilant, for “our past makes us aware of the fragility of mankind.”

He then recalled one of George Santayana’s most known quotes: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Shoesmith invited everyone in attendance to lunch, so they could break bread with one another.

“We are in this together,” she said.

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