1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany mourns 80,000 COVID dead

April 18, 2021

At a memorial event in Berlin, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told relatives of coronavirus victims that they are not alone in their suffering.

The service at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
A morning service was held at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin for Germany's COVID victimsImage: Gordon Welters/Pool KNA/AP/picture alliance

Germany is holding a national memorial day on Sunday for its nearly 80,000 victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel attended memorial events, just as the country battles a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases.

How Germany is mourning its COVID victims

The two leaders first took part in a morning service at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church — a memorial in Berlin against war and destruction.

"Sickness, dying and death cannot be just pushed away in this long year, they have cut deeply into the lives of many people," said Georg Baetzing, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, at the service.

Later Sunday, Steinmeier and Merkel attended a ceremony at the capital's Konzerthaus, where the president gave a speech.

With pandemic curbs still in force restricting the number of people who could attend, the ceremonies were broadcast live on television.

What did Germany's president say?

Steinmeier called on the audience to remember the people behind the statistics and figures, asking them "to consider the human tragedy of the pandemic."

The president said it was "understandable" that "we have been obsessing over infection rates and the number of deaths each day."

But he has the impression "that we, as a society, have not reminded ourselves often enough that individual destinies, human lives, are behind all of these numbers."

He warned that "a society that ignores this suffering will suffer as a whole."

Remembering those who died alone

Steinmeier also singled out those who died alone or could not say their last goodbyes in person, due to pandemic restrictions in hospitals.

"Dying in the pandemic was and is often a death without succor or a proper farewell. Sometimes even relatives were not allowed to visit their loved ones in hospitals, care homes or hospices. Many people have died without their relatives and friends being able to say goodbye to them."

"Some find their loss twice as hard to bear because they were denied the chance to see or touch the dying one last time. The fact that they were not able to bury their relatives as they and, above all, the departed themselves would have liked weighs heavily on others," Steinmeier added.

He stressed that the day of mourning would remind people that "they are not alone in their suffering, not alone in mourning."

Death toll expected to rise in Germany's third wave

Sunday's ceremony comes as health authorities warn that many more will succumb to the virus.

Lothar Wieler, president of Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, said the reality in intensive care units was worsening, and in most cases, they are now treating people in the 15- to 49-year-old age group.

Andrea Krautkrämer, who works as a nurse in an intensive care unit in the western city of Koblenz, told DW reporter Andrea Grunau the situation has been difficult for several months. 

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

Fed up with the dithering States, Merkel's government agreed a law change with parliament, that binds all 16 states to impose the same tougher measures such as nighttime curfews in hard-hit areas, once any region hits a 7-day incidence rate of 100 per 100 000 people.

With material from AFP

Kate Martyr Editor and video producer at DW's Asia Desk and News Digital