Invalids' Cemetery

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Invalidenfriedhof
Invalidenfriedhof.jpg
Details
Year established 1748
Location Scharnhorststraße 25
Oranienburger Vorstadt
Berlin-Mitte
Country Germany
Type Veterans
Number of graves c. 230 preserved

The Invalids' Cemetery (German: Invalidenfriedhof) is one of the oldest cemeteries in Berlin. It was the traditional resting place of the Prussian Army, and is regarded as particularly important as a memorial to the German Wars of Liberation of 1813-15.

History[edit]

Tomb of General von Scharnhorst

The cemetery was established in 1748 to provide burial grounds for those veterans wounded in the War of the Austrian Succession, who inhabited a nearby hostel (Invalidenhaus) built on the orders of King Frederick the Great. A royal decree of 1824 declared that the Invalidenfriedhof should become the burial ground for all distinguished Prussian military personnel, including Bogislav Count Tauentzien von Wittenberg. One of the most notable tombs from this period is that of Gerhard von Scharnhorst (a hero of the Napoleonic Wars), designed by Schinkel with a sculpture of a slumbering lion cast out of captured cannon by Rauch. The cemetery was also the resting place of the soldiers killed during the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. By 1872, approximately 18,000 funerals had taken place in the cemetery.

Numerous commanders and officers who fought in World War I, such as Max Hoffmann, Helmuth von Moltke and Ludwig von Falkenhausen, were buried in the cemetery, along with several high-ranking members of the Freikorps. The body of Manfred von Richthofen (the 'Red Baron') was transferred to the cemetery in 1925 from his original grave in France. During the Weimar Republic, high-ranking military personnel such as Hans von Seeckt continued to be buried in the cemetery, but approximately half the graves were gardened over in this period.

During the Nazi regime, a number of senior figures were buried in the Invalid's Cemetery, including former Army commander Werner von Fritsch, air ace Werner Mölders, Luftwaffe commander Ernst Udet, Munitions Minister Fritz Todt, Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia Reinhard Heydrich, Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau and General Rudolf Schmundt, who was killed in the July 20 plot by the bomb intended for Adolf Hitler. After World War II, the Allies ordered that all Nazi monuments (including those in cemeteries) should be removed, and this resulted in the removal of the grave-markers of Heydrich and Todt, although their remains were not disinterred.

In May 1951, the East Berlin city council closed the cemetery off to the public so that repairs and restoration could be carried out, and to prevent any further damage of the graves. Since it lay close to the Berlin Wall, in the 1960s over a third of the cemetery was destroyed to make way for watch towers, troop barracks, roads and parking lots. Some of the graves were damaged by gunfire from soldiers guarding the wall.[1]

The degradation of the cemetery continued in the 1970s, when soldiers stationed nearby began to use abandoned or damaged gravestones to build shelters in case of bad weather. It was probably[original research?] only the fact that the cemetery contained the graves of German freedom fighters like Scharnhorst, regarded by the East German National People's Army as its forerunners, that prevented its total destruction.

Looking west to the Graves of Scharnhorst and Boyen
Former death zone (Todesstreifen) in the cemetery with the rest of the Berlin Wall (Hinterlandmauer - left), right: the western wall of the cemetery
Restitution grave stone of Helmuth von Moltke

After German reunification in 1990 the cemetery came under the monument protection scheme and restoration work began. There is now a memorial to Berliners killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall in the cemetery. The cemetery also contains an unmarked mass grave of Berliners killed in allied Air Raids.

Notable Burials[edit]

In chronological order (a fuller alpha-list is at Category:Burials at the Invalids' Cemetery):

References[edit]

  1. ^ Huggler, Justin (4 Aug 2014). "Red Baron's cemetery will see few visitors saluting First World War dead". Daily Telegraph. 
  • Thoms, Robert, Invalidenfriedhof Berlin Hamburg, 1999 ISBN 3-89811-048-6
  • Laurenz Demps, C. Scheer, H.-J. Mende, Invalidenfriedhof. Ein Friedhofsführer. Simon, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-936242-08-9.

Coordinates: 52°31′55″N 13°22′16″E / 52.53194°N 13.37111°E / 52.53194; 13.37111