A Jewish Necropolis

There is a competition between Warsaw, Vienna, Łódź  and Berlin, who has the biggest Jewish cemetery in Europe. With 43 hectares and 115.000 burials the cemetery in Berlin’s suburb Weißensee is at least one of the biggest. I had a walk there.

Exploding firecrackers created a strange war-like atmosphere when my friend Miriam and I had a walk on January 1 at Weißensee cemetery. The northern suburb of Weißensee is Berlin’s funeral place. There are several huge Christian cemeteries and a Jewish one, which is supposed to be Europe’s biggest Jewish cemetery. The cemetery was established in 1880 and reflects Berlin’s historical climax – from the early years of the in 1871 established German empire to the 20s, when Berlin was Europe’s most dynamic cultural capital. If you like to learn about Berlin’s history, skip the Reichstag during your next trip and visit Weißensee Jewish necropolis instead.

Here you have them all: bankers, book and newspaper publishers, artists and lots of poor people who emigrated from the east of Europe, hoping for a better future in a modern metropolis. Jewish symbols on tombstones are rare in Weißensee; Berlin’s Jewish elite was mainly secular. It were the Nazis who reminded them who they were.

Next to the cemetery gate is a memorial to those who have no grave in Weißensee, who have no grave nowhere. To those who were deported to concentration camps and killing sites. The inscription reads like this:

Commemorate Eternal (God)
what happened to us.
Dedicated to the memory
of our murdered
brothers and sisters
1933 – 1945
and to those alive
who shall fulfill
the legacy of the dead.

The Holocaust memorial is not the only touching site in Weißensee cemetery. Next to a remote path is a field of children graves. Most of them died shortly after birth. They are buried in long rows; simple concrete blocks were set up on their graves. Is there somebody left to mourn them?

Weißensee cemetery is well researched. Berlin’s Technical University mapped inscriptions, architecture, used materials, damages and vegetation.

More information: http://www.jewish-cemetery-weissensee.org/

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