THE Evangelical Bishop of Berlin, Dr Christian Stäblein, has said that he was “shocked and stunned” by the burial of a prominent Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi on the same plot as a Jewish musician who had died nearly nine decades earlier.
Last Friday, 50 neo-Nazis attended the urn burial of Henry Hafenmayer, a neo-Nazi, who died in August, aged 48, on the Stahnsdorf Southwestern churchyard in Bradenburg, on the border to Berlin. He was buried on same plot as the Jewish musician Max Friedlaender, who died in 1934.
The prominent neo-Nazi Horst Mahler, 85, who earlier in his life was a founder member of the radical Left Baader Meinhof group, before he was later imprisoned for incitement of hatred and anti-Semitism, attended in a wheelchair, and is said to have delivered the eulogy.
Stahnsdorf Southwestern is the largest Protestant cemetery in Germany. It is administered by the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia (EKBO).
A Berlin investigative group, Recherchenetzwerk Berlin, first reported the story and has put photos of the burial online.
Dr Stäblein said in a statement on Tuesday morning that he had visited the plot, and that the recent burial “was a mistake and a failure of our Church”.
He wanted “to do everything I can to deal with this desecration of Max Friedlaender’s grave. I will consider all legal steps that could reverse the process. At any rate, I will make sure that we preserve an honourable memory for Max Friedlaender in this cemetery.”
The burial was made possible because graves in Germany are re-used after a period of ten to 20 years. The churchyard has many historically important gravestones for whose upkeep funds are lacking. To prevent decay, therefore, a grave-sponsorship system has been introduced. The headstone for Max Friedlaender is under a preservation order.
“The sponsors take over the costs for restoration and securing of a historical grave monument,” the churchyard’s support group says on its website. “They can simply preserve the gravesite as a monument, or take the option to have themselves or their loved ones buried in this historic and prestigious gravesite.”
Local newspapers reported that the neo-Nazi group tried to obtain a more central grave, but that this was turned down by the churchyard’s administrators, who feared that it cold become a shrine for neo-Nazis.
The graveyard was opened in 1909. It also contains a section of Commonwealth War Graves from the First World War, which the Queen visited in 2004.