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Burial of a Wolhynian German
Reconstructed house burial in Chirokitia (Cyprus)

A burial (also burial , burial or burial ) is the transfer of the corpse or the ashes of a deceased (possibly also an animal) to a fixed, finally determined place in the earth or the spreading of the ashes into nature. A funeral usually includes a religious or secular mourning ceremony .


History of terms and colloquial usage

Flower arrangements at an English funeral

Burial and burial are often equated colloquially. The burial in the strict sense is the placing of the urn , while burial and burial refer to the placing in the earth.

In terms of linguistic history , the term burial has been used since the 15th century and is much older than the term burial , because the basic meaning “to add something next to another” precedes the special meaning “buried, buried” by around 200 years. The current meaning of burial did not arise until the 17th century and means "giving a place to the remains". However, the term burial was known in Middle High German as early as the 12th century in the other sense of “taking in place”, “arranging” or “equipping”.

The now somewhat mundane term of burial has not been able to establish itself in society, was much more widespread in the past and can be found, for example, in the Christian creed ( “died and buried” ). The noun of buried , burial, is still a popular form of language today.

The term burial is derived from the form of burial that has been required in Judaism , Christianity and Islam for thousands of years : the corpse is “entrusted to earth so that it can return to earth from which it was taken”. That is why the term burial is mainly used for a religiously motivated burial, but is linguistically synonymous.

Regional expressions

In the Bavarian , Austrian and southern Franconian- speaking regions , in the Odenwald and in Meißen , “Leich (e)” is used for the funeral ceremony, including the after-party. This explains the term “funeral feast”. This celebration is in addition to the previous memory, with a speech about the dead. The subsequent contemplative get-together serves as a sociable reminder of the life of the deceased and the coping with grief for the bereaved.

Preferably in the south of the German-speaking area, the designation crypt burial is common. In Lower Bavaria and parts of Upper Bavaria is the funeral for the transfer of the coffin in the mortuary chapel and burial used to transport the coffin to and the grave, takes place the most two days later.

Other names for burials are also common regionally. So is obsolete and in Austria also baptism common, in Meißnischen east of Leipzig it is called burial .



The first (probably) deliberate burials took place in the caves of Qafzeh and Skhul in Israel and are 90,000 to 120,000 years old. Occasional burials are discussed for the Neanderthals from around 70,000 BC ( Shanidar ). Burials are an indication of the first metaphysical ideas.

In the New Stone Age , in the Mediterranean, there were also so-called house burials, in which the deceased was buried below the floor of the still small residential buildings (for example in Chirokitia in Cyprus).

Tacitus writes about the Teutons: “There is no pomp at the funeral ceremonies; they only insist that the bodies of excellent men be burned with certain types of wood. They cover the pyre neither with clothes nor with fragrances; everyone is given their armor, some even their horse in the fire. The grave is built from lawn. They discard monuments in honor of the deceased as oppressive for them. They quickly put away laments and tears, pain and sadness only slowly. Mourning is considered appropriate for women, remembrance for men. "



Special procedures developed in ancient Egypt , with burial rites changing over the course of the millennium, so initially the dead were buried in shallow earth pits with few additions, later burials developed in coffins and sarcophagi and special grave goods were made. The houses of the dead , initially and for lower officials as mastabas , were developed into the elaborate pyramids for pharaohs, among others. The idea of ​​the journey into the hereafter determined the effort for the dead, i.e. for the ancestors.

Greek antiquity

In ancient Greece it was the custom to put two coins on the dead man's eyes, the so-called Charon penny . They should serve as payment for Charon in order to transfer the soul of the deceased safely to the realm of the dead. The body was then cremated. It was believed that a dead who was not at least symbolically buried could not get into the realm of the dead , but that his soul had to flutter around the banks of the Dead River for a hundred years before Charon would allow it to cross. Therefore it was more important for Antigone to sprinkle the body of her slain brother Polynices with earth than to obey the order of Creon , who forbade this. In Ode I, 28 Horace has the Greek philosopher and mathematician Archytas of Taranto ask for such a symbolic burial after a shipwreck.

Roman provinces

The burials in the provinces are to be distinguished between cremation and body burial, whereby cremation was predominant in the imperial era. The burial places can be very different. Outside of urban settlements there were so-called grave roads, but these were reserved for the elite. Other burials were mostly housed in burial grounds outside of settlements. Basically, the rule was that adults always had to be buried outside the city, but an exception was sometimes made for children.

Eating and drinking utensils, tools and leftover clothing can be found in the graves. Coins, lamps, oils and ointments as well as so-called statues of the dead are also found less frequently. Typical gifts for women could also be jewelry, jewelry boxes, mirrors or combs. Weapons were sometimes found in male burials, but as these were considered state property under Roman rule, this is very rare.

middle Ages

Christianity rejected the cremation of corpses in favor of burial because Jesus was buried in a rock grave after his crucifixion . The lament for the dead was replaced by the singing of psalms , reading and prayer under the impression of belief in the raising of the dead . The care for the dying and the dead became the duty of love for the relatives and the whole community .

Until the first wave of cemetery relocations in the course of the 16th century, burials took place mostly in the cemeteries surrounding the churches, occasionally in privileged tombs directly in the church. The burial as close as possible to the altar was considered desirable.

Originally, no aesthetic demands were made on the design of the graves or churchyards; the liturgical acts were based on the nearby church as the cultic center. The privileged tomb directly in the church, initially reserved only for clergy, developed into a status symbol for sale for the secular upper classes despite multiple bans.

Statutory Regulations

Today a number of legal, hygienic and in many countries religious regulations determine how burials must be carried out.

Burial obligation

In Germany, burial is compulsory for the deceased and dead born , but not for a fetus under 500 grams in the event of a miscarriage .

Funeral laws and cemetery regulations


In Germany, the funeral services is through the funeral law (in the form of national provisions laid down by law), including burial laws, cemetery laws, regulations corpse. These regulations are implemented in cemetery regulations either locally or by the religious community . From these regulations it emerges in particular that the deceased must be buried in the public cemeteries provided for this purpose . There may be restrictions on the group of people to be buried. Alternative forms of burial such as burial in a cemetery are still exceptions.

It is possible for every funeral director in Germany to conduct burials anywhere in Germany. Due to the commercialization of the trade, internal regulations can lead to area protection. A start-up can be restricted locally by the trade office if the “need” has already been met. The person entitled to care for the dead can freely choose the undertaker. In most cases, it makes sense for the burial person to hire a local company. Price comparisons and trustworthiness are selection criteria. An existing funeral order by the deceased has absolute priority in the election.

Because the legal provisions in Germany and Austria generally do not allow an ashes urn to be handed over to the bereaved, but in Switzerland or the Netherlands they do, a branch of funeral services in neighboring German countries has focused on the transfer of the deceased from Germany, their cremation and the Discreet, informal handover of the urn to the relatives. In return, in some federal states, z. B. Bavaria, the funeral laws somewhat liberalized in the last decades (see funeral types ).


In Austria, funeral and funeral laws are a matter of state legislation and vary from state to state. The website of the Federal Chancellery maintains the currently valid version. In Austria, the cemetery regulations are issued by the cemetery administrations. These can be in the hands of a religious community or the municipality . It was only in the last few years that the funeral service was liberalized so that anyone with a certificate of competence for the trade can open a funeral home. Until 2002, proof of the need was necessary in order to obtain a license . This restriction of access prevented free competition . Critics say that the elimination of this so-called needs test was beneficial to companies operating across the region, who tried to “sit out” long-established undertakers with financially strong investors. Such developments can be observed in Carinthia and Styria .

Surviving dependents must bear the costs

The obligation to arrange for the burial of a deceased ( burial obligation ) is regulated in the funeral laws of the federal states under public law according to certain hierarchies, although there are differences between the federal states. If there are no persons required to be buried or if they do not undertake the burial within the tight deadlines of the funeral laws, the local regulatory authority (usually the regulatory office ) arranges a funeral and has the costs reimbursed by any relatives identified later (so-called replacement fee).

The obligation to bear the costs of the funeral includes the civil law obligation to finally bear the costs or to reimburse the person who arranged the funeral. The most important cases are the heir's obligation to bear the costs according to § 1968 BGB and the obligation of the person who was liable to support the deceased ( § 1615 , § 1615m BGB). In the event that another person was responsible for the death of the deceased, the heir and the person liable for maintenance are entitled to reclaim the funeral costs from this person ( § 844 BGB). The Road Traffic Act ( § 10 StVG) contains a no-fault special regulation for fatal accidents in road traffic .

Since 2004 health insurances have stopped paying death grants to cover funeral costs . In the event of the death of the recipient of a pension under the Federal Pension Act, a funeral allowance is granted under certain conditions . If the person who is finally obliged to bear the costs of a funeral cannot be expected to bear the costs for personal or economic reasons, he is entitled to the social welfare office covering the necessary costs of the funeral ( Section 74 SGB ​​XII). The social welfare office of the place of death ( Section 98 (2) SGB XII) is locally responsible (in contrast to the usual way ). In 2010 the social welfare offices paid for the funeral costs in 22,651 cases; the number was 64% higher than in 2006 ( Federal Statistical Office ).

If the inheritance is rejected, no funeral costs are to be paid under civil law, but the public-law burial obligation remains unaffected. If necessary, the heir may still be required to be buried within the framework of the care for the dead regulated by the Funeral Act and must (at least temporarily) bear the costs.

Disruption of funeral services

The burial typically takes place in a ritual form . In Germany - as in Austria - it is forbidden to disrupt funeral services. In Germany, the range of punishment for this is a fine or imprisonment of up to three years, in Austria a fine or imprisonment of up to three months. The legal basis in Germany is § 167a StGB , in Austria § 191 StGB .

Types of burial

The funeral culture in Germany and Europe has been subject to profound changes for several decades. Traditional forms of burial give way to more and more individualized and pluralized forms of burial with various combinations of new and traditional rituals. At a recent mainstream are for Reiner Sörries anonymous burials, natural burials or even care-free tombs become. He emphasizes digital media as crucial for the change in funeral culture. The socio-cultural change in a society characterized by mobility, individuality, secularization and plurality is reflected in the diversity of dealing with death and dying on the Internet . In contrast, locally fixed memorial sites and family graves increasingly lost their meaning.

In principle, the following types of burial are legally possible in Germany, but not in every federal state:

Schematic representation of common types of burial in Europe and Asia

The special process of cremation is called cremation. Some forms of burial are named after the special places: sea burial, river burial , tree burial , alpine meadow burial, aerial burial.


Grave with floral decorations after a funeral

The coffin funeral of the corpse is typically carried out in the ground of a cemetery or corresponding thereto prepared surface. The burial takes place in one

  • Individual grave, as an elective grave or in sequence as a row grave in separate sites or one
  • Common grave, usually with families, in which several burials take place over a longer period of time in the same place.
  • In times of crisis, several corpses are buried in a mass grave if necessary ; the burial cases are not separated.
  • Depending on the region or culture, or for particularly worthy burials, the coffin is buried in a walled grave ( crypt ) or in a mausoleum .
  • Until the early modern period, social outsiders, including excommunicated and suicides , were subjected to degrading forms of special burial. Often they were buried or buried ( donkey burial ) without any ceremony and under discriminatory measures .

Cremation (cremation)

Urn wall

During the cremation , the body is burned in the crematorium . The funeral can be celebrated at the coffin before the cremation or at the urn after the cremation. After the cremation, the ashes are buried with or without an urn in various forms:

  • in the ground, usually in a demarcated dedicated cemetery
  • In the root area of ​​trees or on mountain meadows, for this form, which has recently become more common, urns that can be degraded quickly are used. Such natural burials are supposed to symbolize the cycle to new life
  • Urns can be placed in an urn wall ( columbarium ) or in niches in the cemetery wall, a form of burial that has already prevailed in the Mediterranean region and is increasingly used
  • Without an urn, directly from the ash capsule, the ashes are scattered on a designated ash litter meadow as an anonymous burial , at sea or from a balloon .

Special forms of using part of the ashes in the aftermath of cremation are the transformation of any amorphous carbon in the ashes into diamonds as a memento. In exclusive cases, a small part of the ashes are carried into space with rockets and handed over to eternity there , while the main part is buried in the usual form.

In order to symbolically avoid the obligation to burial the ashes, there is also the possibility of leaving a (small) portion of the ashes from cremation separately in mini urns for the descendants.

River burial

A special form of burial is burial on or in a river after previous cremation. In Germany, this type of burial is not permitted by law. The federal states regulate the permitted forms of burial in their respective state laws, and all German states assume that a river burial in Germany (at least not yet) does not fit into the historically grown local burial culture. In India, the deceased are traditionally cremated in public and then handed over to the Ganges.

Anyone who wishes to be buried in a river in Germany is usually cremated and then buried in the Netherlands, for example in Maas, Waal or IJssel, or in Switzerland. In contrast to burial at sea, relatives are more likely to have a place of mourning here than on the high seas. The bereaved can more easily get to the burial site and look for proximity to the deceased from a boat or on the bank. A river burial does not therefore have to be completely anonymous.

The German legislation in the federal states has not yet taken this development into account, so that river burials are only possible in the neighboring countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. German undertakers often offer appropriate services here.

Eco burials

As an alternative to the previous forms of burial, the idea of nature conservation is gaining influence. The trend towards “eco-burials” is spreading from the USA, whereby it should be noted that burials in the USA differ considerably from the burials common in German-speaking countries: the deceased are usually embalmed with materials containing formaldehyde and buried in a watertight coffin which pollutes the environment and slows down decomposition considerably. In the case of a “green burial” in the USA, embalming is avoided and a coffin made of degradable materials is used - it corresponds roughly to what a normal burial is in German-speaking countries.

The “Green Burial Council” advocates a “new ethic” for burials, which includes, for example, non-toxic coffin paint, biodegradable urns and forms of burial that are less harmful to the environment.

Another eco-friendly trend, but one that is much rarer, is underwater burial, see the Neptune Memorial Reef section.

Alkaline hydrolysis

In the case of alkaline hydrolysis (resomation), the deceased is placed in a stainless steel tank in potassium hydroxide solution at 170 ° C. The body including the coffin dissolves completely within two to three hours. This creates a largely residue-free and sterile liquid that is post-treated in a wastewater treatment plant. Any remaining bones are ground up and placed in an urn. This method from animal carcass disposal was implemented by the Scots Sandy Sullivan and Craig Sinclair for an ethical and humane form in a start-up company. This liquid "bio-cremation" is said to use 85 percent less energy than cremation , does not produce any toxins or furans and reduces land consumption compared to burial . Resilient life cycle assessments are not available. The process is approved in Canada, Great Britain and Australia. In the United States, it is approved in eight states and approval processes are pending in 17.

Neptune Memorial Reef

"The Neptune Society" created the Neptune Memorial Reef on the Florida coast . An underwater building was created from the ashes (phosphates, carbonates) obtained after the cremation. This reef is considered environmentally friendly as it provides a new habitat for corals and marine animals,


Promession is a form of dehydration through shock freezing and subsequent composting to separate the mineral components. For this purpose the Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak founded the company "Promessa Organic AB" with her husband Peter. In this procedure, the deceased should first be refrigerated at −18 ° C for one and a half weeks, then the corpse is placed in liquid nitrogen at −196 ° C. This is supposed to remove about 70% of the water from the body and make the body brittle , so that it breaks down to about 30 kilograms of powder when shaken. The remaining water is then removed in vacuo. An odorless powder should be buried in the compostable coffin made of corn or potato starch and will break down into humus within twelve months and thus return to the natural cycle. The shortened process of putrefaction (which can take far longer than 20 years in the case of an earth burial: wax corpse ) leads to a reduction in land consumption. However, the implementation of this form of burial has not yet progressed beyond the announcement. A British licensee has resigned: “The development got stuck in the concept phase”.

Anonymous burial

Name steles on a communal grave, Stuhr-Moordeich cemetery

The anonymous burial as nameless burial is the most cost-effective burial. It can serve to protect the burial site or the relatives or prevent a site from becoming an undesirable place of pilgrimage . In public usage, the anonymous burial often refers to a burial where neither the place nor the time is publicly known. Unidentifiable deceased persons are also buried anonymously, for example war or disaster victims or objects of illustration in anatomy and pathology or from teaching collections.

Urn field at the Eichhof park cemetery

Recently, the term "anonymous burial" has also been extended to coffin or urn burials in communal graves if, for example, no money was left to purchase an individual grave or there are no survivors who can devote themselves to tending the grave. Sometimes the name and the life data of the deceased can be entered on a name board for a fee, so that the term "nameless burial" in the strict sense no longer applies.

Heavenly burial

Heavenly burial is a religiously based form of burial defined by natural conditions. It still plays a certain role in the Far Eastern regions. In the case of the Parsees , burial took place on the Towers of Silence , where the corpses were exposed to being eaten by birds of prey and only skeletons remained.

Alternatives to burial


Cryostasis is the preservation at low temperatures (below −125 ° C) in order to enable resuscitation in the future. Supporters of cryonics are of the opinion that the death criteria of today's medicine are flawed. Often there were no physical changes that would fundamentally rule out survival. Rather, the followers assume that there are only complications that cannot be treated with today's medical means, and only the lack of treatment options leads to the final annihilation of the affected person.

The followers of cryonics therefore conserve people and hope that in the future there will be the possibility of treating the dead according to today's definition and keeping them alive without further interventions. For example, the previously used criterion of cardiac death after the introduction of heart-lung machines has proven to be inadequate and has been replaced by the criterion of brain death . Cryonists therefore only consider a person dead when the brain has decomposed to such an extent that the information stored in it is permanently lost and, for fundamental reasons, cannot be restored even with the most advanced technology. Under normal conditions, this "information-theoretical death" should not occur until a few hours after clinical death.

Body donation

The handing over of the corpse to the anatomy department for research or preparation purposes or for the help of needy sick people is one possibility of further procedure. Any remaining remains will then be buried by the beneficiary institutions. More recently, in light of the rise in costs, most institutes that accept body donations require that the funeral costs be paid in advance by the body donor.

The preparation of a corpse for scientific or medical purposes is not a burial, since the dead person is previously deconstructed as a "(deceased) living being", ie symbolically freed from the soul .

Burial process

  • The inquest is the official determination of death .
  • The burial begins with the farewell to the dead. This can be accompanied by various actions, such as laying out (at home, in a mortuary or church), washing the corpse , dressing, coffin .
  • The next step of the burial is usually a dignified , ritualized ceremony in memory of the deceased. This can take place as a service in a church or chapel ( church burial ) or in secular form as a funeral service ( secular funeral service ) - for example in a celebration hall. The memory of the deceased is perceived by means of music or a speaker. In some cases there are separate forms of burial, for example burial with military honors .
  • The burial is often continued at the place of storage - the "recording" - in the ground or in a tomb, a burial house or a mausoleum . The lowering of the coffin into the grave is the (real) Be erd FINISH or burial. If the crypt that received the coffin is closed, one speaks of a grave .
  • Immediately when the coffin is placed or after the funeral, there is sometimes a ceremony of condolence from those present towards the closest relatives of the deceased.

In the case of a cremation, the farewell can take place before or after the cremation. Only the mineral parts of the deceased remain, this is not a burial in the narrower sense. When bury the urn that can grave speech with a "urn ceremony" to follow.

Importance of rituals and overcoming grief

The burial ritual serves primarily to help relatives cope with grief. There are different forms of this in different cultures. Part of this coping is the funeral speech or eating together with the mourners after the funeral. Depending on the idea of ​​continued existence, resurgence or transience after physical death, different burial habits or burial regulations result.

The farewell to the open coffin can take place in different forms. In Germany this is possible in showrooms , but the approval of the local health department is often required. It is not possible to accompany you in the open coffin to the crypt. In Russia, Great Britain and the USA for selected religious communities it is allowed or even common. Carrying to the grave in an open coffin (Armenia) or with a coffin window over the head (e.g. in Mexico) are culture-related variants.

The burial is complete as soon as the named ritual ends. The following operations are no longer part of the funeral. The setting up of grave times in different embodiments, with markings and the application of grave sites do not belong to burial. If, because of the relocation of the offspring, cemetery closures or other reasons for reburial , the funeral rites can be repeated if the idea of reburial is.

Philosophical and religious forms of organization

According to estimates by the Federal Association of German Undertakers, around 500,000 of the 800,000 burials take place annually as Christian burials, half Catholic and half Protestant , 250,000 are organized by free orators, the rest are anonymous or without professional accompaniment.

Secular burial

If the deceased did not belong to any religious community or a religious funeral ceremony is not desired, a secular funeral service can take place during the funeral, which is usually led by a free funeral orator or a speaker from a ideological community .

Christian burial

Lying coffin in a chapel, Sweden

Members of Christian religious communities are usually buried in cemeteries after their death as part of a church burial.

The funeral ceremony traditionally consists of three parts: the blessing or opening in the mourning house, the service in the church or chapel, and the burial at the grave. In many cases, however, the church funeral today is limited to the latter two parts.

The proclamation of the resurrection hope is an essential part of church burial . The memory of the life of the deceased is embedded in the forms of worship, prayer, song and blessing.

Islamic burial

In Islam there are precise rules for accompanying people when they die. The prayers, the ritual washing of the corpse and the funeral are laid down in the process. The dying person should be reminded of the creed: "There is no deity but Allah, Mohammed is his prophet." The corpse of a woman should be washed by women, that of a man by men. Then it is wrapped in linen towels. He should be laid in the grave in these cloths, i.e. without a coffin. On the right or lying on the back, the line of sight goes to Mecca. The burial should take place immediately, if possible on the day of death. Respect for the dead requires burial before all other business. At the grave there should be no activity, the rest of the dead and the avoidance of personality cults have priority. Almost every form of grave decoration and care must be avoided. For devout Muslims, burial is the only possible form of burial. The cremation is not allowed in Islam.

The burial rites are explained from the time of the proclamation of the Koran, when the Arab peoples lived as shepherds and nomads in steppes and desert areas. In Germany, Islamic burial customs collide with the legal, mostly state, rules of a society with a Christian tradition.

The first generation of Muslim migrants still had strong ties to their homeland. Adults from the closed Islamic culture have moved to Germany since the 1970s. Avoiding the contradictions between Islamic tradition and German cemetery law , the relatives usually had the body transferred. In the homeland, the dead were traditionally buried. With the increasing number of Muslim migrants in Germany, the desire for a funeral in Germany arose. Nevertheless, the Muslim rules for burial existed. From the end of the 1990s, Islamic burial grounds emerged in German cemeteries.

Islamic rules

  • In principle, the different Islamic tradition for burials in German-speaking countries must be observed.
  • The burial should take place on the day of death.
  • The cemetery needs a room for ritual washing .
  • The burial ground must enable the deceased to face Mecca ( qibla ). The angle must be adhered to to a fraction of the degree, i.e. to the nearest minute.
  • The burial site must be in “virgin” soil in which no other burial has taken place.
  • It is buried without a coffin only in a linen shroud.
  • Further rules from tradition differ between Shiites and Sunnis.
    • An "eternal right of rest" is to be provided.
    • Grave decorations or grave maintenance are not common.

Unlimited waiting period

The rest periods that apply in German cemeteries are contrary to Islamic rules. The end of use could be extended on request (only in each case). It is important to ensure that grave sites that can be extended are selected from the start. A strict "eternal use" is not guaranteed. The religious regulations prescribe eternal rest only symbolically. However, it must not be an area that would no longer be subject to piety in the future, i.e. that is used in any other form. On Islamic grave fields it should be ruled out that any other uses take place.

Burial to the day

The Islamic commandment to burial on the day of death contradicts the legal, i.e. irrespective of the cemetery, a waiting time after death until burial, usually at least 48 hours.

Coffinless burial

According to German burial laws, in addition to the compulsory cemetery, coffins are compulsory for burials. This sometimes clashes with the religious prescriptions of those to be buried. In practice, the corpse is usually transported in a coffin right up to the grave, then placed in the grave without a coffin, only in the shrouds, as in North Rhine-Westphalia or Hesse. In principle, individual permits for religious reasons are possible from the relevant competent authority, usually the health department.

With the “Law on Integration and Participation”, the state of Berlin is relaxing the funeral law by abolishing the obligation to coffin. This regulation is not tied to any particular religion. The prerequisite, however, is that a grave field is designated in the cemetery for the coffin-free burial. The decision on the designation of corresponding grave fields is the responsibility of the respective cemetery owner. Section 18 of the Berlin Funeral Act is to be amended to the effect: "In derogation from the obligation ... to bury in a coffin, corpses for religious reasons can be buried in a shroud without a coffin in grave fields designated by the cemetery bearer". Baden-Württemberg has also lifted the coffin requirement for burial, but not for the transport of the corpse.

Separate funeral directors are able to follow Islamic principles. They often have the necessary individual permits. If special grave fields have been created for Islamic burials, it can be assumed that compliance with the burial rules is possible. Otherwise, the corpse must be transported as quickly as possible (by flight) to its home or an Islamic country so that it can be buried in the ground on the same day.

Jewish burial

Since the deceased rests in the grave until the physical resurrection on the last day, burial is mandatory. This must take place as soon as possible after death, since only then can the soul rise from eternal rest. With death all Jews are the same again, the clothes are white and the coffin is a simple wooden box outside of Israel. The white robe is called sargenes or smock. In order to make clear the equality of all in death, the coffin must not be decorated with silver or other jewelry. In the holy earth of Israel the dead are buried in linen garments, outside of Israel a small amount of the holy Israeli earth or a stone from Israel is symbolically placed in the coffin. The funeral is not highlighted with music or flowers. The dead are washed and clothed by the holy brotherhood, the Chewra Kadisha . A minyan is required for funeral rites . Psalms are quoted at the funeral and the glory of HaSchem (name of God as it is used for prayer, since it must neither be written nor uttered uselessly ) is invoked in the Kaddish prayer. The mourners throw earth on the coffin, men stand by the grave, behind them the women. Men wear a kippah . The mourners are kept in the social community, there is shared food and consolation is given. There are separate Jewish cemeteries to ensure compliance with the regulations; In many municipal cemeteries there are special Jewish grave fields to enable eternal rest. The bereaved should observe a seven-day mourning week ( shiv'a ) after the funeral .


This term is understood to mean a number of different religious ideas and rituals, and so the rules of burial vary according to tradition, family and caste. It is uniform that death is the return to the cycle of rebirth. The dying should not be left alone; a mantra should keep his soul as pure as possible. The body of the dead is washed and a funeral prayer is said. The bodies of the deceased are actually cremated in public, which is not possible in Central Europe under burial law. Hindus are always cremated, in Europe the cremation is carried out in the crematorium. Preparing the dead takes place in the crematorium, which requires a separate department. Hindus are often transferred to India to be buried according to tradition.


The rite requires that the dead be laid out in the house first, even if they died in the hospital. Here the farewell by descendants and mourners takes place in common chants and songs, such as the Heart Sutra. The farewell party in the house usually requires special official approval. The presence of Buddhist monks at the home farewell ceremony with prayers and rituals is therefore often relocated to nearby monasteries in Central Europe. In principle, the mourning hall of a cemetery is also suitable. The dead are burned and the ashes are buried, that is, given to the earth in the literal sense of the word.

Funeral costs

The costs to be reimbursed by the surviving dependents at a funeral are divided into the following services

  • Fees and third-party services
    • Basic funeral fee
    • Grave use fee
      • Establishment or extension of the right of use
    • Cremation and urn burial
    • Use of the cemetery facilities
    • Government and Church fees
    • Retention fees
  • Other costs
    • Transportation costs
    • Coffin or urn
    • Floral decorations
    • Funeral printed matter
    • Speaker, carrier, musical accompaniment
    • medical death certificate
  • private costs
  • Follow-up costs, these can be incurred annually over the rest period or as a total amount with the funeral.
    • Grave maintenance by the authorized user for the entire rest period or as permanent maintenance by a cemetery gardener
    • Gravestone from the stonemason
      • Creating the foundation, labeling
      • Grave border
      • Removal of the tomb at the end of the rest period
    • Relocation in the course of personal changes of location.

For an earth burial to be regarded as "worthy" according to current understanding , in Germany from 1800 euros to well over 10,000 euros are spent. The fees of the cemetery owner for the grave site are set out in statutes and ordinances. Regarding the fees, it should be noted that in some cases annual fees, but in other places a total amount is formed for the period of use.

The one-time ancillary costs at the undertaker can fluctuate greatly, funeral directors are commercial enterprises. Package prices or individual advice result in very different calculations. The costs for the undertaker, who takes care of all the formalities, can range between € 700 and € 5000.

If a simple urn burial is planned without a coffin celebration, an inexpensive cremation coffin is often sufficient for just under 100 euros. The saved costs, instead of over 1000 euros for an expensive oak coffin, can be used for other expenses, such as the funeral service. The flower arrangement of an urn community facility must be more modest because of the smaller area than for burial in a family grave, a double or triple voting point.

Funeral homes have been widely criticized for their business practices.

In November 2004 the Stiftung Warentest published the results of a study into the “eleven providers who are in at least one city with 500,000 (west) or 450,000 (east) inhabitants and a total of at least ten business addresses in the“ yellow pages ”or in Internet were represented ”, as well as“ a group of nine Berlin undertakers without a branch network as well as nine undertakers who market their offerings via the Internet ”were included. Above all, the high price differences for the same service from different providers were noticeable; for a simple burial they were between 499 and 1570 euros for the funeral service. Most undertakers did not respond to the request for a funeral that was as inexpensive as possible in the test, but created a much more extensive offer. No company examined came off better than “satisfactory” in terms of cost transparency, and two large undertakers even only scored “poor”. "Detailed cost estimates are not a matter of course in the industry." According to the test, prices are rarely made public.

In order to save costs, survivors are increasingly turning to discounters on the Internet. But here, too, consumer advocates have warned of excessive costs. In a DPA report in 2005 it was said that only those who are satisfied with the basic offer of such an undertaker can save costs.

Relatives can reduce funeral costs by several hundred euros through their own contributions. If a relative of the deceased gives the funeral speech, up to 400 euros can be saved. The musical design of the funeral service can also be taken over by a family member or friend. The costs for a musician are also eliminated. In principle, relatives can help with almost all funeral services. By doing their own thing, relatives can not only save costs, but also design a more personal farewell that helps them cope with grief. If you want to do your own work, this can be discussed with the undertaker.

Special funeral requests can result in higher costs. Easily degradable urns are required for a tree burial, which are available in very sophisticated and decorative designs. Undertakers often offer fixed prices for burials in meadows, at sea, balloon burials or the so-called diamond burials, since they are only resellers. “Cryonic storage” (freezing) costs up to $ 200,000.

A body donation is inexpensive , as the above-mentioned fees are paid in full or in part by the Anatomical Institute.

Even if hospitals and nursing homes have contracts with funeral directors for the transfer to the cemetery, the relatives have the right to freely choose the undertaker . If the survivor has not expressly consented, he or she usually does not have to pay for the collection from the home by the "contractor".

In the case of inheritance tax , a lump sum of 10,300 euros can be deducted for estate liabilities (including funeral costs); a higher amount is possible upon proof. However, the lump sum is split if several heirs bear the costs together. In this case, the amount depends on the inheritance share. If the inheritance is insufficient for the costs, extraordinary burdens can arise.

See also


  • Dominic Akyel: The economization of piety. The change in the funeral market in Germany. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2013, ISBN 978-3-593-39878-5 .
  • Philippe Ariès: History of Death. 7th edition. dtv, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-423-04407-1 .
  • Thorsten Benkel, Matthias Meitzler: Symbols and farewell gestures . Social elements of the funeral culture. Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-8300-6177-9
  • Claudia Denk, John Ziesemer (Ed.): The civil death. Urban burial culture from the Enlightenment to the early 20th century. (= ICOMOS booklet of the German National Committee. Booklet 44). Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-7954-1946-2 .
  • Axel Ertelt : The Thai funeral culture through the ages . NIBE-Verlag, Alsdorf 2019, ISBN 978-3-96607-010-2 .
  • Wolfgang Fauth : funeral. In: Little Pauly . Volume 1 (1979), Col. 873-876.
  • Norbert Fischer : The present day funeral culture. In: Michael Klöcker and Udo Tworuschka (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Religionen. 58. Supplementary delivery 2018, I - 14.7.3. Loose-leaf work, Westarp Science - Fachverlage, Hohenwarsleben ISBN 978-3-86617-500-6 .
  • Heinzpeter Hempelmann u. a. (Ed.): Handbook Funeral. Impetus for a milieu-sensitive church practice. Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2015, ISBN 978-3-7887-2967-7 .
  • Martin Illi : Where the dead went. Funeral and churchyard in the pre-industrial city. Zurich 1992
  • Kenneth V. Iserson: Death to Dust. What Happens to Dead Bodies? Galen Press, Tucson 1994 (English).
  • Magdalena Köster: Designing the last farewell yourself - alternative forms of burial. Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 2012.
  • Otto Langer: About burial in the 16th century, primarily in Zwickau. In: New archive for Saxon history and antiquity 28 (1907), pp. 1–16.
  • Christine Rädlinger: The administered death. A history of the development of the Munich funeral service. Buchendorfer Verlag, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-927984-59-0 .
  • Central Institute for Sepulchral Culture Kassel (ed.): Large lexicon of funeral and cemetery culture . Dictionary of Sepulchral Culture. 5 volumes. Thalacker Medien, Braunschweig since 2002, DNB 963152122 .
    • Volume 1: Folklore-cultural-historical part: From abdication to second burial. Thalacker-Medien, Braunschweig 2002, ISBN 3-87815-173-X .
    • Volume 2: Archaeological-art-historical part: From the rubbish pit to the Twelve Tables Act. Thalacker-Medien, Braunschweig 2005, ISBN 3-87815-182-9 .
    • Volume 3: Practically current part. From waste disposal to two-field economy. Practice and Present. Thalacker-Medien, Braunschweig 2010, ISBN 978-3-940087-67-6 .
    • Volume 4: (not yet published).
    • Volume 5: Biographies. Biographical part: from Abraham â Sancta Clara to Johannes Zwingli . Thalacker-Medien, Braunschweig 2016, ISBN 978-3-943787-53-5 .
  • Reiner Sörries : Rest gently. Cultural history of the cemetery. Kevelaer 2009.
  • Reiner Sörries: One last greeting. The new diversity of funeral and mourning culture. Kevelaer 2016.

Web links

Commons : Funeral  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Funeral  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. 2nd account of creation: Genesis 3:19 (also 2, 7)
  2. ^ Austrian dictionary: Leich , example: A Schöne Leich [1] , accessed on April 14, 2014
  3. Dictionary of the Saxon Language: That was a beautiful corpse .
  4. Gunter Bergmann: Small Saxon Dictionary . Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1989. West Elbeelster area and West East German: “You can't bury yourself in mere heads”.
  5. Robert H. Gargett: Grave Shortcomings: The Evidence for Neanderthal Burial. Current Anthropology 30/2, 1989, pp. 157-190.
  6. tungsten Grajetzki: Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor
  7. see Burial Customs ( Memento from April 16, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (Egyptian burial customs in development, English)
  8. Virgil , Aeneid 6, 324-330.
  9. ^ Eveline Krummen : Sophocles. In: Kai Brodersen (ed.): Great figures of Greek antiquity. 58 historical portraits from Homer to Cleopatra. CH Beck, Munich 1999, p. 139.
  10. ^ Ross S. Kilpatrick: Archytas at the Styx (Horace Carm. 1. 28). In: Classical Philology 63, No. 3 (1968), pp. 201-206; Gerhard Fink (ed. And translator): Q. Horatius Flaccus. Odes and Epodes . Tusculum Collection , Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2002, ISBN 978-3-11-036002-8 , p. 382 f. (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  11. M. Altjohann, H. v. Hesberg: graves . In: Thomas Fischer (Ed.): The Roman Provinces. An introduction to their archeology . Theiss, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 978-3-8062-1591-5 , pp. 195-203 .
  12. H. v. Hesberg: graves . In: Thomas Fischer (Ed.): The Roman Provinces. An introduction to their archeology . Theiss, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 978-3-8062-1591-5 , pp. 200-201 .
  13. L. Berger / S. Martin-Kilcher: Graves and Funeral Customs . Ed .: Swiss Society for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archeology in Switzerland. tape 5 , The Roman Era. Basel 1976, p. 153-162 .
  14. ^ Reiner Kaczynski : Death and burial liturgy. In: Bruno Kleinheyer , Emmanuel von Severus , Reiner Kaczynski: Sacramentous celebrations II. Regensburg 1984, ISBN 3-7917-0940-2 (Church service: Handbook of Liturgical Science Part 8), pp. 193-232, here pp. 206ff.
  15. Sven Friedrich Cordes: The Burial in the Middle Ages (online version ) from: Cordes: “I don't want to be a burden to anyone!” Social-scientific perspectives on the economization of the funeral system. GRIN Verlag GmbH, Munich 2012.
  16. Harald Martenstein: About German Ashes , in ZEITmagazin No. 29/2013 of July 11, 2013, also online in [2]
  17. Judith Liere: Quiet cheap! in Die Zeit No. 33/2012 of August 16, 2012, also online in [3]
  18. ^ Federal Chancellery Austria on funeral and funeral laws in Austria
  19. Thomas Klie (Ed.): Performances of Death: New Funeral Culture and Church Perception, Kohlhammer-Verlag 2008.
  20. Lin Hierse: Funeral culture in Germany: How we want to die . In: The daily newspaper: taz . April 7, 2019, ISSN  0931-9085 ( [accessed on May 17, 2019]).
  21. Reiner Sörries: One last greeting. The new diversity of funeral and mourning culture. Kevelaer 2016, p. 160 f.
  22. cf. accessed on August 19, 2020
  24. See: Michael v. Brück, Eternal Life and Rebirth - Dying, Death and Hope in the Beyond in European and Asian Cultures, Herder Verlag 2012
  25. ^ [4] Quiet in the Rhine - controversial but legal (Tagesanzeiger, November 29, 2011)
  27. a b c d VDI nachrichten January 18, 2013: Low emissions on the last trip . Page 3
  28. VDZB (Ed.): Bestattung Heft August 2008. Bonn 2008. ISSN  1613-4850
  29. Heidi Friedrich: Does the church need a perfect farewell? In: Berliner Zeitung, 3./4. November 2018, p. B 7.
  30. ^ Islamic burial rites
  31. Klaus Dirschauer: The Islamic burial and the customs of mourning . In: Buried with words: Designing and creating funeral speeches. Donat Verlag, Bremen 2012, pp. 101–112
  32. Press release of the Senate Commissioner for Integration and Migration from August 6th, 2010: Planned rules for coffin-free burials do not only apply to Muslims
  33. from Yiddish ; Kaufmann Kohler, Judah David Eisenstein:  Sargenes. In: Isidore Singer (Ed.): Jewish Encyclopedia . Funk and Wagnalls, New York 1901–1906 ..
  34. dradio
  35. ^ Klaus Dirschauer: The Jewish burial . In: Buried with words: Designing and shaping funeral speeches , Donat Verlag, Bremen 2012, pp. 91–99
  36. Death in Buddhism
  37. Michael Schomers : Dead certain business. How undertakers, authorities and insurance companies exclude survivors. Updated edition. Ullstein, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-548-37241-9 ( Ullstein 37241). Peter Waldbauer: The funeral mafia. How business is done with death. Herbig, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-7766-2530-1 .
  38. Burials: The Expensive Dead . In: test . November 2004, pp. 14-19 (accessed from on December 9, 2012).
  39. DPA / DPA: Burials: Cheap on the Internet. In: March 17, 2005, accessed April 24, 2019 .
  40. ^ Publication of the funeral guild . In: Berliner Zeitung, November 14, 2008