Funerary monuments and graves of Moses Mendelssohn and his descendants

This project is intended to create a photographic record of the existing funerary monuments and to publish a short explanatory text on each one in an informational brochure, perhaps also in CD form. Another key objective in this context is to solicit potential patrons willing to sponsor the maintenance of graves that are neglected or threatened by removal for re-use.

The project’s first managers, Heide Bergfeld and Peter Steemann, focused their initial effort on creating a family tree down to the 6th generation, with the vital statistics and places of death, and on visiting cemeteries located in Berlin and Brandenburg. This alone resulted in a trove of photographic material. Online research, clues provided by members of the family, and chance recollections have led to the discovery of information pertaining to gravesites outside of Berlin as well, and the corresponding photographs. The search gradually is being expanded to also include graves situated beyond Berlin and even outside of Germany.

Based on the research conducted thus far, the historian Sebastian Panwitz and the Stan Hema agency have prepared a brochure available for a nominal charge of € 5 at the Mendelssohn Remise: Ich wach. Die Grabstätten der Familie Mendelssohn in Berlin (I keep watch. The graves of the Mendelssohn family in Berlin). This publication is the first-ever systematic guide, complete with photos, to all the gravesites of the family known to exist in 19 cemeteries in Berlin and its environs – including graves that were previously thought to be “lost.” The final resting places of the Mendelssohn clan, scattered all over the world, tell the complex saga of a German-Jewish family’s conversion to differing denominations, as well as of their wanderings and expulsions.

Custodians

Persons interested in serving as custodians of these graves or those who can furnish information on additional graves are kindly asked to contact us via email at post@mendelssohn-gesellschaft.de. We have already been able to acquire a number of sponsors as custodians.

Preserving the graves of honor of Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Emil Bohnke

A discussion round entitled “Graves of Honor: A Thing of the Past?” was held at the Mendelssohn Remise in September of 2016. The topics covered were the changes observed in contemporary funerary culture and the criteria applied by the Berlin Senate Chancellery when it comes to awarding “grave-of-honor” status. Participating in the forum: Volker Pellet, Chief of Protocol of the Land of Berlin, Pastor Jürgen Quandt from the Evangelischer Friedhofsverband Berlin Stadtmitte, Benedikt Goebel from the Bürgerforum Berlin, and André Schmitz, chairman of the Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft. The discussion revealed that graves whose statutory period of private use has expired indeed may be maintained through the Grave of Honor program, but only if interested citizens file corresponding requests with the respective district authorities and with the Berlin Senate Chancellery, and if they then follow these up with a certain amount of lobbying effort. The grave-of-honor status once accorded to the burial sites of famous Moses Mendelssohn descendants like city councilor Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy or the composer and conductor Emil Bohnke (who was married to the violinist and banker’s daughter Lili von Mendelssohn) has expired. Thus, a number of groups have formed to lobby the authorities for a restoration of the formerly privileged status of these personages’ graves. If you would like to contribute to these initiatives, please contact us via email at post@mendelssohn-gesellschaft.de.