The Federal Graves Law (Law on the Preservation of the Graves of the Victims of War and Tyranny of July 1, 1965) mandates that the German states ascertain and establish the graves of victims of war and tyranny on their territories, and care for and maintain them. In simplified terms, the Graves Law is to apply to the graves of the following persons:
- The war dead of World War I (only military people),
- The war dead of World War II who died in the exercise or as a consequence of military or quasi-military service (period: August 26, 1939 to March 31, 1952), or within one year after completion of their captivity,
- The war dead of World War II who lost their life as civilians as a result of war-related activity (period: September 1, 1939 to March 31, 1952), e.g. the victims of air-raids,
- The victims of Nazi tyranny (period: January 30, 1933 to March 31, 1952), e.g.: concentration-camp victims, euthanasia victims, victims of the “racial policy”,
- The victims of illegal measures of the Communist regime, e.g.: victims of the Berlin Wall,
- Germans expelled from territories lost in World War II (period: September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945 or March 31, 1952),
- Germans who died as a result of forced removal (period: since September 1, 1939),
- Internees in camps under German administration (period: September 1, 1939 through May 8, 1945),
- Persons forcibly removed to Germany or held there against their will (period: September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945), e.g. forced laborers and
- Foreigners deceased in camps run by international refugee organizations (period: May 9, 1945 to June 30, 1950).
Some 120,000 graves with approx. 150,000 victims exist on approx. 170 burial grounds in Berlin and on Berlin-owned cemeteries in the surrounding areas, which are maintained and cared for under the Graves Law in memory of the dead and commemoration of their suffering. This represents a seventh of the national total of graves witch are subject to this law.
These burial-places include both individual graves outside cemeteries and also entirely military cemeteries, such as the Soviet memorials, the cemeteries and graveyards with the casualties of the Commonwealth countries, and the graves of interned Italians. However, the majority of the graves of the victims of war and tyranny are located in the numerous state-owned and denominational cemeteries throughout the city.