Discovering Celebrity Graves in Berlin

Many famous authors, composers, musicians and politicians are buried in Berlin. For instance, the Brothers Grimm’s graves of honor are located here. They are not alone.

Berlin, November 26th, 2020. Update: November 20th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — Berlin accommodates the graves of hundreds of celebrities. Some of them look truly beautiful and get a lot of sunlight. Others seem more modest. There are cemeteries with many celebrity graves. Others do not have any.

Some Surprises

Dorotheenstadt Cemetery in Berlin’s ‘Mitte’ district is a Lutheran burial ground with several graves of famous authors. Many celebrities are buried at two cemeteries in ‘Kreuzberg’, one in ‘Schöneberg’, one in ‘Dahlem’ and at the Jewish Cemetery in Weißensee.

Bertholt Brecht is buried next to his wife Helene Weigel. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Most Berlin cemeteries are nice. Many have maps at their entrances. That way, finding celebrity graves is a lot easier. Most cemetery gardeners will gladly provide information too. There are surprises. For instance, the Brothers Grimm are buried in Berlin. This is something even some Berliners do not know.

Graves of Honor

Berlin has countless graves of honor. The list has 97 pages and some 680 entries. This means that the city state of Berlin takes care of them. While regular graves can disappear after a few decades, depending on the next of kin, graves of late artists and other famous persons remain where they are, for centuries.

Graves of honor in Berlin can be identified by this sign. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

This applies to the Brothers Grimm’s graves at Alter St. Matthäus Kirchhof in Berlin’s Schöneberg borough. They are being trimmed on a regular basis and their grave stones look like new, even though the fairytale authors and lexicographers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm died in 1863 and 1859, respectively.

‘Hansel and Gretel’

Born in the city of Hanau, the Grimms moved to Berlin in 1840, when King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. asked them to. Berlin is the place where both of them died after working in the city for decades.

The late author Christa Wolf is buried at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

In a way, the Brothers Grimm were the J.K. Rowlings of the 19th century. They are behind ‘Cinderella’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats’ and countless other fairytales millions of children have listened to when they were read to them by their parents, grandparents or older siblings.

An obscure biker club lost one of theirs in 2015. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

‘Angels Never Die’

The same cemetery in Schöneberg features a memorial for the men who tried to assassinate Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler in 1944. The stone with their names is not a grave stone. Right after their execution, they were actually buried here. But, a day later, Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler had their remains unearthed, burned and their ashes scattered.

Berlin does have many beautiful cemeteries. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

There are interesting graves everywhere. A member of a famous biker club the name of which will not be mentioned here for obvious reasons, buried one of theirs at the Alter St. Matthäus Kirchhof. A few steps away, another unconventional grave store has a political message on its back: “Women’s rights are human rights”, it accurately says.

Brecht and Wolf

Bertholt Brecht, who wrote ‘The Threepenny Opera’ and countless other famous stories, died in 1956 in East Berlin. He is buried at Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof, just like his colleagues Christa Wolf, who passed away in 2011, Heinrich Mann and many others.

Heinrich Mann died in California in 1950. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy might be the most famous person buried in the German capital. The composer, pianist, conductor and painter was born in Hamburg in 1809. He spent about two years of his life in Britain. After suffering several strokes, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy died in Leipzig. He was buried at Berlin’s Dreifaltigkeitsfriedhof I. A small building at the cemetery offers an exhibition about him. His grave is marked by a modest stone cross.

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy is the most famous composer buried in Berlin. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The late federal minister Egon Bahr is buried at ‘Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof’, while the late former Chancellor and Governing Mayor Willy Brandt’s grave is located at ‘Waldfriedhof Zehlendorf’. This is where the singer and actress Hildegard Knef is buried as well. Otto and Gustav Lilienthal, two brothers and flight pioneers, are buried in Berlin too. So are Samuel Fischer, who founded one of Germany’s most important publishing houses and died in 1934, as well as the late Rock musician and singer/songwriter Rio Reiser, who was born as Ralph Christian Möbius. He died in 1996, at age 46. His biggest solo hit was ‘König von Deutschland’, ‘King of Germany’.