Cemeteries tell a story, and the Weissensee Cemetery in Berlin is a giant historical war novel. However the story is not necessarily about what’s in the novel, it’s about what is missing from the novel. Weissensee is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world and is the resting place for 115,000 Jews who mostly died peacefully prior to the Holocaust. As you enter the cemetery from the Berlin neighborhood of the same name (Weissensee) you feel as if you are pulling an old, tattered book out of your grandmother’s bookcase, blowing the dust off of it and opening up the yellowed pages with a creak of the binding.
Once you walk past the Holocaust Concentration Camp Memorial in the entrance you quickly leave the well manicured lawns and enter deep into the overgrown and neglected cemetery. The weeds and mold have grown around the gravestones camouflaging the inscriptions. Some gravestones are broken in two and lay on the the ground next to the base like a cracked egg. These graves were neglected for years since the fallen haven’t had family who are able to visit and tend to the state of the graves. Most of the family members were murdered during the war or escaped after the war. It’s as if time in this cemetery stopped at 1933, and the pages of the novel have been ripped out. If you look closely at the inscriptions you’ll see dates ranging from the 1800’s to 1933 and then you’ll come across a few newer graves but they are in the minority.
The Weissensee Cemetery is a beautiful, peaceful place to visit and it provides a unique travel experience outside of all of the normal tourist stops. It reminds you of the time in Berlin before the war which is a time that is rarely considered in this city of memorials and painful memories. I invite you to go take a stroll through the uneven pathways and crumbling grave-sites.
View all Weissensee Cemetery Photography:
Location: Herbert-Baum-Straße 45, Weißensee – Tram line M4
Opening times: Sunday–Thursday 10am–5pm, Friday 8am–3pm, closed on Jewish holidays. Open till 1pm the day before such a holiday. There are guided tours.
More great cemeteries around the world to visit:
Venice – Island of the Dead
Rome – Cemetery Angel
Paris – Pere LaChaise Cemetery
By Richard June 22, 2012 - 10:41 am
Very nice shots, Sherry.
I’ve been to the cemetery in Venice, San Michele, as well as the Pere LaChaise Cemetery in Paris…..many years ago. Brings back more memories, seeing those pictures.
Another one I like is the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. I’ve been there several times…..it’s small but is believed to have some 100,000+ people buried there among many layers of graves. The tombstones are really close to and packed on one another.
I think this cemetery goes back to the 1400s.
By Emilia June 22, 2012 - 6:05 pm
Beautiful and peaceful pictures, Sherry. I remember very well the ones from Venice and Rome.
Like Richard, I remember one beautiful cemetery in Prague: not the Old Jewish, but the one who’s enclosed at Vysehrad Castle – Dvorak and Smetana are there. Beautiful pic opportunities with afternoon light.
Kisses and enjoy Istanbul! (One of my top 3 cities, wonderful place.)
By Sherry June 23, 2012 - 4:43 pm
It sounds like I need to get back to Prague! Thanks for the tip!
By Jodi Henderson June 22, 2012 - 9:19 pm
What an interesting sounding and looking place. I’m not usually one for cemeteries, but I did visit Pere Lachaise on my last trip to Paris. I found it fascinating and would have spent more time there had my niece and nephew been more into it. I’ll add this one to my list for when I visit Berlin (a trip that’s not planned yet, but which is on the travel bucket list).
By Darlene Foster June 23, 2012 - 1:02 am
I love visiting old cemeteries and this will be on my list should I ever get to Berlin.
By Sherry June 23, 2012 - 4:42 pm
I hope you make it there one day Darlene!
By Chrystal McKay June 23, 2012 - 1:14 am
I do love cemeteries and this one looks incredible. There is always a peaceful feel in a any cemetery no matter the circumstances for it. I just wandered around the rows and rows of graves in Mostar, BOsnia&Herzegovina and every grave said 1993….
By Mark H June 23, 2012 - 6:14 pm
I’m a big fan of cemeteries and have visited many on my travels. I think it makes a strong comment on the town or city as to the feel and characater of their cemeteries. The most moving Jewish cemetery I’ve visited is the one in Prague also heavily stained with the period of the Holocaust.
By Sam June 25, 2012 - 4:24 pm
great pictures sherry. well captured also, especially the distinction that this is not a holocaust cemetary per se, but rather an immense cemetary left behind when a long established community is removed.
By A Montrealer Abroad June 26, 2012 - 5:15 am
Stunning photos. The weather fit the mood very well! I remember being in Auschwitz on a bright spring day with birds singing, and somehow, it felt wrong.