Germany′s First Private Cemetery a ″Country Hotel for the Soul″ | News and current affairs from Germany and around the world | DW | 07.05.2006
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Germany's First Private Cemetery a "Country Hotel for the Soul"

The first private cemetery in Germany, with room for 10,000 paying guests, has just been inaugurated in a forest near the western city of Cologne.


Gravestones at the private ceremony don't look like conventional ones

"We are the first private cemetery in Germany, and we define ourselves as a country hotel for the soul," said Fritz Roth, the director of the cemetery.

The aim is to give families an alternative to the "sterility" of traditional cemeteries and a bigger say in how they want to bury their loved ones, he said. "Here we allow communication, creativity and freedom."

The cemetery at Bergisch Gladbach covers 30,000 square meters, roughly the size of four football pitches.

It already holds some 40 graves, which cost between 350 and 2,000 euros ($440 and $2,500). Families can choose exactly the gravestone they want and even opt for a night-time funeral, Roth said. He added that he encourages people to dress the bodies of loved ones, saying that this helps people to deal with grief.

"I just had a memorial service this morning where the children spent an entire week to paint the coffin of their father," Roth told the online version of Der Spiegel magazine in an interview.

Kerstin Gernig, a spokeswoman for the German federation of undertakers, said Germans have begun breaking with funeral traditions.

"Today balloons are released into the sky at children's funerals, something which was unthinkable a few years ago," she said.

There are some 33,000 public cemeteries in Germany, according to the national federation of undertakers.

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