Burial with military honors

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Military funeral: The coffin of former US President Ronald Reagan is driven through
Washington, DC on a gun carriage
Military funeral: The coffin of former US President Gerald Ford is carried to the
Capitol by members of all five US armed forces through an honor trellis with a presented rifle to be laid out in the Capitol .
Burial of fallen German soldiers at the beginning of the First World War.

A funeral with military honors means the organization of a memorial service or a funeral by members of the military . The procedures of such a burial are country-specific and determined according to the respective military traditions . The burial with military honors is usually part of a state funeral in Germany , unless the relatives expressly refuse it.

Military funerals in Germany

Great escort of honor for Helmut Schmidt by the guard battalion of the Bundeswehr

In Germany, the following are entitled to a burial with military honors:

The military honors at funeral ceremonies are only given at the request of the next of kin of the deceased. If the death occurred in connection with a crime committed by the deceased, or if there is reasonable suspicion of involvement in a crime, no military honors are paid.

The scope of the military ceremonies at a funeral service is specified in a central service regulation. A distinction is made between delegation , small and large military escorts of honor :

  • The delegation consists of an officer (if possible, the deceased's disciplinary superior), a non-commissioned officer, a team rank and, if necessary, two soldiers as wreath-bearers.
  • In addition to the delegation, the small escort of honor includes six soldiers as a wake (if possible from the deceased's rank group), a drummer, a trumpeter and, if necessary, a soldier as a pillow bearer.
  • The great escort of honor comes into question for persons who held at least the service position of a commanding general (usually lieutenant general ) or a comparable service position. In addition to the delegation, which has been reinforced by a general, it includes a troop flag with a standard bearer and two accompanying officers, a parade of honor (1/3/27), a music corps as well as a wake, wreath bearers and order pillow bearers.
  • On the orders of the Federal President, state funerals are carried out, for which a battalion takes the place of the parade and the coffin is carried by officers.

The coffin of people who are buried with military honors can be covered by a federal service flag at the request of the relatives so that the eagle points to the right to the head of the deceased. If the person was wearing a uniform, a headgear ( helmet , peaked cap , mountain cap , beret ) is attached to the coffin at the level of the head of the deceased, with an opening facing downwards, the umbrella / edge pointing to the head of the heraldic eagle. Since the coffin with the flag is lowered into the grave according to the German ceremony, a second flag is carried separately for the purpose of handing it over to the bereaved.

An integral part of the process is playing the song of the good comrade when lowering the coffin into the grave or in the case of state acts after it has been placed in the hearse; soldiers present give the military salute .

From 2000 to 2011, the Bundeswehr took part in 68 escorts of honor and 43 delegations to funeral ceremonies for deceased former Wehrmacht members, including Rudolf Witzig , Michael Pössinger and Erich Topp .

As part of a state act, Lieutenant General a. D. Jörg Schönbohm received this honor on February 22, 2019.

Military burials until 1945

The last military / state funeral of the Third Reich , at which the then Reich President Karl Dönitz spoke the last words, took place on May 16, 1945 for the sea ​​captain Wolfgang Lüth, who had died two days earlier .

Until 1945, the military funeral consisted of the funeral procession, as was customary in other countries, in which the coffin was transported on a horse-drawn gun carriage . As honorary signal of the dead were up to 21, depending on the rank salute given such. Sometimes with cannons .

The riderless horse named "Sergeant York" in the funeral procession of Ronald Reagan , with the ceremonial sword on the saddle and the president's boots upside down in the stirrups

Riderless horse

It was customary for senior officers to take a riderless horse with them in the funeral procession. It was a saddled horse with the boots tucked upside down in the stirrups . This should symbolize the current lack of leadership of the unit concerned.

Military funerals in other countries

Soldiers carry a coffin to their grave at the Heroes' Cemetery in Metinaro ( East Timor )
  • In the USA , the process of military funerals corresponds to the procedure common in Germany until 1945. In the USA, the signal call " Taps " intoned by a solo musician is used as a mourning song . In the USA, the riderless horse is still carried in the funeral procession during state celebrations.
  • In Great Britain it is customary to hold the weapon upside down when carrying the coffin past the form of honor, this tradition is also known from other countries. The signal call “ The Last Post ” is used as mourning songs , followed by “ Reveille ”.
  • Many countries also have special forms of lockstep for the military funeral procession , for example in Russia a very slow, set form of goose-step . In Austria is - especially at funerals of President of the - Guards Battalion Applied slow parade step than Konduktschritt referred.
  • When the military departments leave the funeral service, funeral marches are often no longer played, but the usual military marches as a sign of future-oriented thinking.


The Roman writer Virgil already describes that in the 1st century BC A fallen helmet and weapons were carried. His comrades carried their weapons upside down. This found its equivalent in the Middle Ages when shields were pointed upwards, as Wolfram von Eschenbach reported in the Parzival around 1200 .

See also


  • Central guideline A2-2630 / 0-0-3 "Military forms and celebrations of the Bundeswehr" (formerly ZDv 10/8, publisher BMVg , Bonn 1983), not public
  • Hans-Peter Stein: Symbols and ceremonial in German armed forces from the 18th to the 20th century (= development of German military tradition. Vol. 3). 2nd, revised edition. Mittler, Herford et al. 1986, ISBN 3-8132-0238-0 .

Individual evidence

  1. Last escort for Jörg Schönbohm. Retrieved July 13, 2019 .
  2. Video of the state funeral of Zilk with the funeral parade in the conduct step , accessed on April 19, 2019.