The culture of the graves in Germany is disappearing: it plunges the cemetery into a crisis

Too strict, too big, too expensive: according to experts, many traditional city cemeteries in Germany are heading for a crisis – or are already at the heart of it. "It is striking to see the empty spaces expand," said Ralf Michal, vice president of the Association of German Undertakers, in Schweinfurt. "The cult of worship, as we know it in the past, is outdated and communities have failed to create decent and up-to-date forms of burial." Meanwhile, parents decide between 20 and 25% as an alternative to the tomb, as a community shrine, a burial in the forest, a sepulture at sea. The trend is up. The result: "Cemeteries are becoming more and more deficient".

Because behind the popular alternative forms often stuck businesses. Although they are forced to cooperate with a cemetery due to legal regulations, however, they have borne a large part of the costs – "and then miss municipalities for the maintenance of cemeteries," Michal said. . "We at the Undertaker Association have always said make your cemeteries more attractive, but now local communities are 10 or 15 years old."

Individual and alternative funeral forms are the trend

The reason for this change: society has changed dramatically. "The needs are completely different today," says sociologist Thorsten Benkel of the University of Passau, who is conducting research on funeral culture in Germany. "People are much more mobile and do not spend their whole life in the same place," he says. "That's why the trend is moving away from the family-intensive care grave to adopting other forms of individual burial." He speaks of "escape to the cemetery".

For his colleague Matthias Meitzler, who manages the home page "Sociology of Cemeteries" with Benkel, mixed forms are the concept of the future: "We need to rethink the cemetery," he says. Classical cemeteries next to the ballot boxes, a forest area for the natural burial as well as a common field for dogs and masters – individual offers for the individualized society.

Benkel especially sees a problem with excessive cemetery fees and repressive regulations. "Germany applies the most stringent funeral guidelines in Europe, and its lead in Switzerland and the Netherlands," he said. "Why do you have to decide what to do with an urn right now, why can not you let her go to the forensic doctor for a while and think about it?" He tells a story in which it was forbidden for parents of a churchyard to install a tombstone with a football logo. "It must have been a cross."

Many opt for the urn

The German Association of Cities has recognized the fundamental problem. "Although globally, it takes less space, the cemeteries and their structures must continue to be maintained," said Helmut Dedy, City Day President, about the problem. "Some cities therefore increase the taxes on the graves of urns to increase their participation in the maintenance costs of the entire cemetery", while others increase the subsidies .

Hamburg's Ohlsdorf cemetery is the largest cemetery of parks in the world with some 200,000 graves – and in fact much too big. "We have about 400 hectares, but we would only need 100," said Hedda Scherres, a spokesman for the cemetery administration. She sees today a real "competition of cemeteries". The reason is: "Since the 1970s, we have had a growing trend towards the urn." Of the 16,599 people who were buried in a Hamburg cemetery in 2018, only about 4,000 were buried in a coffin buried in the ground. The cemetery administration is facing the question: "What are we doing with the areas?" Park Cemetery instead of Park Cemetery?

The School of Architecture and Interior Design of the Technical University of Ostwestfalen-Lippe of Detmold is currently looking for answers to these questions in the "One Piece for mourning – ideas for the cemetery of the future ". You can not simply convert a cemetery area into a barbecue area or football field "Kathrin Volk, professor of landscape architecture and design at the university." Once, she had a picnic at the cemetery Hasepark of Osnabr├╝ck, next to a tomb, in order to discover what it was possible to do on empty tombs, which she calls "Landscapes of cemeteries succession". Was strange enough, you have to practice that. "

Grief and cemeteries are a problem that requires filial piety. We must therefore ask ourselves how we can associate in a proper and dignified way "with the city" of the free lands. From their point of view, the focus is not on the dead but on the living ".

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