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Berlin Cemeteries, 1920 to 1948

In 1920, the municipality of Greater Berlin was established by the union of a total of ninety-four single communities, in which there were numerous municipal and denominational cemeteries.

Plans for the shutdown of the many small inner-city cemeteries and their conversion into parks, and for the establishment of new central cemeteries failed due to the autonomy of the boroughs and the large number of different cemetery operators. Moreover, the opening of the crematoriums in Wedding (1912), in Baumschulenweg (1913) and in Wilmersdorf (1922) caused the number of the cremations to rise, so that less additional cemetery space was required.

During the National Socialist era, Albert Speer’s plans for the reconstruction of Berlin also claimed numerous cemetery areas for the construction of major traffic arteries and railway stations. In 1938, the removal of graves from the Alter St. Matthäus-Kirchhof (Old St. Matthew’s Graveyard) to the Südwestfriedhof (Southwest Cemetery) in Stahnsdorf was initiated. Although during World War II, regular cemetery operations could largely be continued, by the end of the war, numerous emergency cemeteries had to be established, including many in parks, due to the large number of dead civilians and soldiers. However, many emergency funerals were also held in private gardens. As the situation returned to normal, these dead were reburied and the emergency cemeteries were eliminated.

The approx. 120,000 graves of the victims of war and tyranny have a permanent right of repose, under the Grave Law. On many Berlin cemeteries, large contiguous complexes of victims’ graves testify to the horrors of the war.

In the first postwar-years, existing cemeteries were enlarged and new ones created, e.g. Waldfriedhof Zehlendorf (Zehlendorf Forest Cemetery) in 1945-‘47; Parkfriedhof Neukölln (Neukölln Park Cemetery) in 1949 or Ruhleben Cemetery in 1950.