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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cemetery Construction Ceased

Local authorities in Volgograd, site of the most brutal battle in human history, said Friday they had halted construction of a cemetery for German soldiers who died in World War II.

"The government has suspended construction of the cemetery because it had received many complaints from local people who despised the idea of German soldiers being buried in the same place where Russian soldiers died," a local spokesman said.

The Battle of Stalingrad, a city that was renamed Volgograd after Stalin's death, marked the turning point of World War II. The Red Army lost about a million soldiers in bitter fighting that had reduced the entire city to rubble by its end in February 1943.

About 200,000 Germans died during the fighting.

"We have practically completed the construction of the cemetery," said Johann Jescht, who oversees the construction of German war cemeteries in Russia for the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge memorial group based in Kassel, Germany.

"It has been built in strict conformity with agreements with the city of Volgograd and the region," he said. "But for reasons unclear to us we were told that as of Aug. 1 the work must come to a halt."

The cemetery is located 25 kilometers outside the Volga River region city of Volgograd, and now contains the remains of 18,000 German soldiers.

Jescht said his group expected to bury the remains of 60,000 to 90,000 German dead once it is completed.

He added that opposition from Communist members of parliament had contributed to the decision to halt construction at the site, which had been expected to open in May 1999.

Even today, the shadow of the war is still present in Volgograd.

A massive statue of Mother Russia holding a sword towers over the hill where the worst fighting took place. Just one building downtown remains from before the war, left in ruins as a reminder of the brutal past.

Jescht said top officials from his memorial group planned to travel to Volgograd in the coming days to seek permission from local officials to continue work on the cemetery.