Coronavirus: Germany looks back on a year of loss | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.04.2021
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Coronavirus: Germany looks back on a year of loss

Germany has commemorated those who lost their lives to COVID-19. It is the darkest chapter of the pandemic and DW has reported on it from the beginning. An overview.

wooden cross and a covid mask

Germany is commemorating the victims of COVID-19

In Germany, around 80,000 people have died from and with Covid-19. It's been over a year since Germany, on March 9, 2020, confirmed its first two coronavirus deaths: an 89-year-old woman in the town of Essen, and a 78-year-old man in Heinsberg, a town that was badly affected at the beginning of the pandemic.

Since those very early days, DW has reported on those who died, on the relatives they left behind, and the people who have taken care of them.

This Sunday, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier led the official memorial service in Berlin for those who lost their lives to the coronavirus.

Steinmeier has frequently drawn attention to the issue of mourning and death, and earlier this year he suggested the idea of placing a candle in the window to commemorate those who lost their lives to the coronavirus. 

No chance to say goodbye

One of the most devastating experiences for those affected has been not being able to visit their relatives in hospital and, in the worst case, having to watch from a distance how they die alone.

Hospitals and nursing homes have been forced to temporarily restrict visits, which means that some coronavirus patients, and even people with other illnesses, have died without their relatives constantly by their side.

DW has also met people who accompany the dying or their relatives.

The Kleibömer family, for example, recounted how difficult their experience was.

Funeral director Birgit Scheffler's work involves something that has been next to impossible during the pandemic: comforting the bereaved while keeping her distance.

Scheffler has tried to support her clients in their time of grief, as well as help them so that they can heal.

Watch video 12:35

Comforting the bereaved in times of Covid-19

The pandemic has also hit nursing and old people's homes hard.

There have been serious coronavirus outbreaks and as a result many deaths, which explains why Germany has especially tried to protect the oldest and most vulnerable.

In April, care homes spent another quiet Easter.

And while Germany managed to keep the number of deaths comparatively low during the first months of the pandemic, the situation became much more serious at the end of last year. 

Among the regions particularly hard hit was Saxony, in the eastern part of the country.

Undertakers, there were well aware of this sad reality. They could hardly keep up, and the coffins were piling up in funeral homes. DW visited a crematorium in Saxony. 

Watch video 02:49

Coronavirus death rate soars in Germany’s Saxony

The situation in hospitals and intensive care units has been especially difficult for many months. DW reporter Andrea Grunau observed this when she followed nurse Andrea Krautkrämer, who works in an intensive care unit in the western city of Koblenz.

"You do everything in your power — and it's not enough," she said. "You suffer with every patient. And you hope."

She is not the only one who is hoping: Since the beginning of the year, the number of deaths in Germany has fallen. This could be an initial success of the country's vaccination rollout.

However, the number has risen slightly again since Easter.

And experts are also warning about the growing infection numbers: intensive care beds are becoming scarcer and Germany will probably still see many people die of coronavirus.

Watch video 02:44

COVID-19 - remembering lives lost

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society, with an eye toward understanding this year’s elections and beyond. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing, to stay on top of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.