Graveyard at Halleschen Tor

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Graveyard at Halleschen Tor

It might be a bit weird to visit the graveyard at Halleschen Tor, but this graveyard in Kreuzberg is so beautiful you should visit it. It has large trees, is full of ancient graves by important people such as the well known composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and the writer E.T.A Hoffmann. And if you are lucky, you might spot playing foxes near the old gravestones or under the trees.

History of the Graveyard at Halleschen Tor

If you walk on the premises of the graveyard at Halleschen Tor you will see beautiful old grave stones by famous Berlin people. The musical family of composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy lie peacefully under the trees, marked by old white crosses.

Other important families even have small houses as a last resting place, with white angels guarding them. It’s hard to imagine how this beautiful graveyard started out around 1732: as a graveyard for poor people. But if you think of the circumstances of that time, it makes more sense. Berlin quickly grew from a small town into a big city. And those people living in Berlin were very religious. They all went to to church and preferred to be buried at their own church when they died. But since Berlin grew quickly and all the pieces of land were being used to build new apartments on, there was little room for large graveyards at all these new churches. So the pious people that belonged to the Jerusalems church, the Neue church, the Dreifaltigkeitschurch and the Bethlehemchurch could not be buried at the ground near their congregation. At Halleschen Tor was more space available. All the different churches got a piece, but as a visitor, you don’t really notice that because the different graveyards are all connected now. You might think the people of these congregations were happy they could have a rather happy afterlife at these new graveyard, but they weren’t.

Graveyard of the poor at Halleschen Tor

Not that hard to imagine. The graveyard at Halleschen Tor wasn’t pretty. There were no large trees, no pretty lanes, nor beautifull headstones. The ground water level was rather high at the graveyard at Halleschen Tor, so the mourners got wet feet when they buried their loved ones here.  The area looked like a stubble field. That all changed in 1767 when the graveyard got a wall, lanes and trees were planted here. The gravestones became prettier as well.

Writers and composers at Halleschen Tor

The gravestones became so pretty, even composers such as Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and writer E.T.A Hoffmann wanted to be buried here. You can find their graves at the graveyard at Halleschen Tor, along with other beautiful headstones with angels and small houses as last resting place. The graveyard at Halleschen Tor has some interesting other buildings as well. Such as a small building for checking if the dead were truly dead and not suffering from suspended animation. In this special house the dead were left on a special table with a bell on their feet. If they woke up, the bell rang. People in the 18th century were scared to be buried alive and to make sure that they didn’t wake up in a coffin under the ground, the doctor checked if they weren’t breathing anymore with a mirror or a feather close to their face. These suspended animation houses where they checked all these things, were build at graveyards, such as this one at Halleschen Tor. During the Second World War, the dead at the graveyard at Halleschen Tor suffered in a different way. The tomb stones were badly hit during the bomb rains, as you can still see at some graves that have large cracks in them.

Wild foxes at the graveyard at Halleschen Tor

The graveyard at Halleschen Tor is not only a interesting place to be because of the beautiful gravestones or interesting Berlin history, but also because it is also a large area with a lot of trees. It’s peaceful and quiet. Not only for people, but also for the wildlife in Berlin. You can not only spot a lot of birds at the headstones, to our astonishment we saw two foxes playing at the graveyard at Halleschen Tor. They were playing in the bushes and running along the headstones at Halleschen Tor. Not a bit bothered by the slightly macabre environment they jumped over the beautiful graves, chasing each others tales. It made our trip to the graveyard at Halleschen Tor a very special day in this weird, wild city.


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