by guest author Sebastian Zimmer
Once I had received the Jewish death certificate of my great-grandmother Gerda, I wanted to find out where she had been buried. It was logical to turn to the Jewish cemetery in Berlin Weissensee. With an area of 42 hectares, this is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. It was opened in 1880 and now has more than 155,000 gravesites. Here I would have the best chance of a positive result.
So in March of 2021 I wrote to the cemetery’s administration asking whether Gerda Eischleb-Löwenhardt was buried there. I very much hoped the answer would be positive for it would be the first grave of an ancestor to find. The answer came on 28 April: yes, Gerda Eischleb-Löwenhardt, born 30 March 1907 and deceased 30 July 1939, had been buried on 2 August 1939 in Field B. The tombstone, they wrote, had an inscription that was difficult to read. I received a detailed description of how to reach the field and the grave.
The news made me very happy. Soon after, I went to the cemetery to find and see the grave. It was my first visit to a Jewish cemetery. I stopped at its entrance to take in the overwhelming grandeur of the architecture. Two large buildings in light yellow stone and a grand wall. When I approached, I saw the memorial for the victims of the Shoa. Once I had received additional information on the gravesite, I continued and took in the fairytale character of the terrain with its long alleyways bordered by high trees. As I proceeded I scanned gravestones for familiar names.
The number of tombstones was amazing. I had never been to such a large cemetery. Thanks to the detailed instructions that I had received, I easily found Gerda’s grave. And still, I could hardly believe my eyes.
The tombstone is simple and neutral. Unfortunately, the engraving is difficult to read. And yet I was enchanted that there was a grave and that it had not been damaged. I took pictures from different angles to optimally read the inscription. And I rejoiced with the idea that I could tell my family about the find.
Translated from German by John Löwenhardt
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