Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And May He Rest In Peace....That Is, For 30 Years...

So I'm not dead positive since I'm no cemetery scientist, but I'm pretty sure once you're buried in the U.S. then that's it. No one is ever going to dig you up no how, that is, unless they are some creepy grave robber if such a thing still exists....Not so in Germany. Here you lease a grave for thirty years. When the time is up, if no one from your family pays for the next thirty years, then your remains are dug up to make way for the next "tenant". I'm not really sure what they do with the people whose families have defaulted on the payments. It's not like there is a hot line you can call (actually, hot lines don't even exist in Germany, at least not toll-free ones, but that is an entirely different topic...) to find out what happened to the bones of Fräulein Müller. 1-800-Call-a-Corpse, where are you when I need you?

This thirty year rule, mixed together with good old fashioned German bureaucracy, has made the local Kreuzberg cemeteries even more interesting and macabre than they already would be: both the ones in my neighborhood have at least a dozen fancy crypts where the families lapsed on their payments. The bodies have been removed- you can tell this by the trees growing through the roofs:


By the gardening equipment stacked beyond rusted gates (in this one the crypt was even open, going down at least six feet. Um, can you say creepy?!?):


And by the boarded up doors:


Still, there is a problem: The bodies had to be removed because no payment had been made but you can't exactly lease the grave to anyone else since the crypt says Familie Hoffmann in large, Art Nouveau letters. Probably the buildings are also under Denkmalschutz which means they can't be torn down, making it all the more complicated.

Still, the old crypts have a beauty to them, albeit dilapidated and spooky. Just the thing for a stroll on a
dark and cold Sunday afternoon in December...




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