The Disappearing Gravestone: Changes in the Modern German Sepulchral Landscape (2013)

Author(s): Schulz FR

    Abstract: Abstract for the Chapter: With few exceptions the German cemetery before 1870 had been a space dominated by individual and family graves. The subsequent experience of social change, caused by industrialisation and urbanisation, as well as by the major conflicts in the twentieth century, was accompanied by a number of transformations in the German cemetery landscape. Many cemeteries, especially urban ones, saw a shift in the use of space and a perceptible increase in public commemoration. This chapter looks at the visual culture of death in East Germany after 1945 by looking at sites of individual and collective burial and in particular the most quintessential socialist element of sepulchral culture, the Urnengemeinschaftsanlage (anonymous communal area for the internment of urns or UGA). UGAs will be shown to represent fascinating spaces physically apart from the traditional family and individual grave plots that are characterised by their own culture of visualising death and commemoration. This chapter analyses their design and iconography in order to demonstrate how they wrestled with problems such as sacrosanctity and how, between the strong currents of secularisation, modernisation, and a clear ideological thanatology, they addressed the issue of death and commemoration in a modern socialist country.

      • Book Title: Envisaging Death: Visual Culture and Dying
      • Pages: 10-25
      • Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
      • Publication type: Book chapter
      • Bibliographic status: Published

        Dr Felix Schulz
        Senior Lecturer in Mod European History