Honor grave

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Group of honorary graves at the Vienna Central Cemetery

An honorary grave is an expression of honoring the deceased by cities or municipalities for citizens who have made special contributions during their lifetime. The allocation and maintenance of such graves is carried out by the public purse . Depending on the awarding practice, an honorary grave can have the character of a public award for an important individual or a memorial for a specific group of people. If there are no descendants or institutions to look after the graves of these personalities, the municipalities or cities take responsibility for the graves and finance the care of the graves. In this way the memory of the honored persons is kept alive. On the other hand (in terms of monument preservation ), evidence of cultural history is often preserved. For example, in closed cemeteries, the costly reburial of the graves of the honored and the preservation of graves worth preserving can be financed with public funds through the statute of an honorary grave.


Honorary graves exist worldwide. There are different regulations according to tradition and law of the state or the municipality for the allocation of the status, financing and maintenance of the systems. Sometimes military cemeteries or the burial sites of victims of political persecution by previous regimes are treated as graves of honor.

In the German-speaking countries, the allocation, financing and maintenance of honorary graves are basically handled in a similar way. In the following, using Berlin as an example, the corresponding ordinance is shown as a representative for numerous other municipalities and cities. In Germany , the State of Berlin maintains the largest number of such sites. The following list of other cities does not claim to be exhaustive and is only intended to illustrate dimensions.




Honorary grave marking in Berlin

Of the around 200 Berlin cemeteries, there are over 740 honorary graves in 80 cemeteries with over 800 honorary graves (see list of honorary graves in Berlin ). Sometimes several honored persons are buried in family graves. The current public maintenance of honorary graves in Berlin goes back to a decision of the Senate in 1952 and was regulated by a general instruction for recognition, transfer and maintenance ... which initially benefited 60 graves. The further basis is provided by Section 12, Paragraph 6 of the “Law on State-owned and Non-State-Owned Cemeteries in Berlin” (Friedhofgesetz) of November 1, 1995. According to this, the State of Berlin provides honorary graves free of charge, the costs of which are borne by the responsible district offices .

  1. For deceased persons who have been granted a state funeral by the federal government or the government of a country or who have been granted honorary citizenship , as well as for their spouses after the end of the rest period.
  2. For the deceased who have been awarded the honorary title “ City Elder ” and their spouses for twice the duration of the rest period.
  3. For the deceased who were recipients of an honorary pension or who made special service to Berlin or who performed outstanding services outside of Berlin or whose memory lives on in public, as well as for their spouses.

Every citizen can submit proposals for the recognition or withdrawal of honorary graves to the responsible Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment. The appointment takes place - at the earliest five years after the death of the proposed person - by resolution of the Senate for the applicable minimum rest period of 20 years. The - also multiple - extension of the honorary grave status by a further 20 years is possible, "but should remain the exception". Such an extension does not necessarily take place in the year in which the status of an honorary grave expires. For example, the deadline for the honorary grave of the composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy actually expired in 2008, but was not formally extended until 2010 by the usual period of 20 years.

The recognized graves are marked with reddish stones, which bear the two-line inscription Ehrengrab, Land Berlin above the coat of arms of the city. Berlin graves of honor have, for example, Karl Bonhoeffer , Bertolt Brecht , Hanns Eisler , Theodor Fontane , Curt Goetz , the Brothers Grimm , Georg Ludwig Hartig , Heinrich von Kleist , Annedore Leber , Otto Lilienthal , Marg Moll , Otto Nicolai , Georg Schumann , Friedrich von Raumer , Ernst Reuter , Joachim Ringelnatz , Agnes Windeck , Heinrich Zille and Arnold Zweig .

In 2003 the Senate decided to bury the urn of the Berlin-born philosopher Herbert Marcuse , which had been transferred from the USA, in a grave of honor. The star photographer Helmut Newton , who died in 2004 and was born as Helmut Neustädter in Berlin in 1920, was given a grave of honor by resolution, although the Senate, as an exception, abandoned the rule of five years after death. The Senate made further exceptions for Hildegard Knef in 2002 and Richard von Weizsäcker and Egon Bahr in 2015 .

What counts as an honorary grave sometimes depends on the historical and political framework. With the memorial of the socialists at the Friedrichsfelde central cemetery , the GDR set up its own cemetery of honor, which served as a burial place for people who, according to the Politburo of the SED , had made a name for themselves in the German labor movement and in the struggle for the “socialist idea” . Since the end of the GDR, no new graves have been allocated there.

Other cities


Honorary grave of Adolf Loos in the Vienna Central Cemetery


In order to make the Vienna Central Cemetery, opened in 1874, attractive to the population, honorary graves were laid for famous personalities. For this purpose, celebrities buried in other Viennese cemeteries such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert were exhumed and transferred. Personalities like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart received grave monuments. In 2015 there are more than 350 honorary graves and more than 600 honorary graves in the central cemetery . The difference between the two forms is that the design and maintenance of honorary graves is the responsibility of the descendants, provided they are able to do so. Otherwise this dedication would either lapse or the tomb care would possibly be taken over by the city. Honorary graves (as for deceased Federal Presidents after 1945), however, are designed by the city and preserved “for the duration of the cemetery”. The offspring have no influence on this.

There are several hundred other honorary graves in other Viennese cemeteries.


In Salzburg, the declaration is made an honorary grave by the council of the city for a thirty-year period and may be extended for thirty years. The city of Mozart set up graves of honor in the municipal cemetery for the writer Hermann Bahr , the mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller and 25 other well-deserved citizens.



The city of Zurich maintains an " anatomical grave of honor" at the Nordheim cemetery near the Nordheim crematorium . Upon request, the urns of people who made themselves available to the Anatomical Institute of the University of Zurich for research purposes after their death can be buried in this communal grave . Such "anatomy graves" exist in numerous university towns in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, whereby the costs are usually borne by the responsible institution.

See also

Web links

Commons : Grave of Honor  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Grave of Honor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Edition Luisenstadt, Ehrengräber Berlin
  2. Recognition and further preservation of graves as honor graves of the State of Berlin (PDF, 73 kB). Berlin House of Representatives, printed matter 16/3696 of November 30, 2010 (accessed on March 11, 2019).
  3. Berlin House of Representatives, printed matter 16/3696 of November 30, 2010.