1 of 4
Jason Swensen, Deseret News
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf places a wreath at the base of a monument at Fort Douglas Cemetery that commemorates German POWs buried at the cemetery. He is flanked by U.S. Army Col. Sanford Artman, at left, and Charles W. Dahlquist.

Germans worldwide paused Sunday to observe Volkstrauertag — the country's national day of mourning to remember those who died in wars or who were victims of violent oppression.

Counted among the formal observances of Volkstrauertag was a Sunday morning gathering at Fort Douglas Military Cemetery near the University of Utah. Scores from the local German-American community, along with many military personnel in uniform, attended the annual event.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, laid a commemorative wreath at the base of a memorial located at the west end of the cemetery. The memorial was erected decades ago to remember the German prisoners of war who are buried at Fort Douglas Cemetery. During World War I and World War II, 41 German soldiers died here while interned as POWs.

President Uchtdorf, who served as a fighter pilot in the West German Air Force, was joined at the wreath ceremony by Col. Sanford Artman, deputy commander of the 76th U.S. Army Reserve Operational Response Command, and Charles W. Dahlquist II, honorary consul for the Federal Republic of Germany.

The LDS Church leader also offered remarks at the event, explaining that Volkstrauertag, in its modern form, is not only to mourn the dead — but also to remember the tragedy of war while advocating peace.

"Commemoration and mourning must not be done for history only, but (also) to work for reconciliation and peace in the present and for the future," he said.

Empathy and action can influence that future. Dignity, honesty and eternal values are needed among communities regardless of differences in politics, religion, race or cultural traditions, he said.

"We remember the past not just to yearn for peace, but in an effort to craft it."

Comment on this story

President Uchtdorf said the victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines, along with those who suffer in other parts of the world, need global support and help. They are brothers and sisters that require comfort, service, prayer and material assistance.

"This kind of commemorating and mourning will best express the pure love of Christ to our fellowmen."

Christ-like compassion and empathy, he concluded, will change the future of the world. "Our desire and action to help someone who is sick, hungry or in trouble will bring peace to individual lives and to the nations of the world."