At first sight, the inhabitants of the Munich neighboorhood Giesing don´t have a real park. A small sledding hill near St.-Quirin-Platz. The training ground of the soccer club FC Bayern München – but there are others who do the running.
But there is the spacious cemetery “Ostfriedhof” with its impressive round funeral parlour and its crematorium. The cemetery is easy to reach by tram No. 17 (direction Schwanseestraße) – the tram stop “St.-Martins-Platz” is right in front of the main entrance. This cemetery is one of the biggest in town – it covers about 30 hectares and has nearly 35.000 tombs. It was built around the turn of century before last, when Munich´s population rocketed.
The tall trees were still leafless. All in line along the grave fields. No twisted paths. Hardly any weathered gravestones. During that season of the year, you rather grind out kilometers than make a break on a park bench. Maybe this was the reason why I got the feeling of walking in a park rather belatedly. It came over me when I was deep into the cemetery and finally found a beautiful gravestone or a picturesque flowerbed. Anyway, the exploration of this cemetery has paid off – due to its exciting and sometimes sinister history.
It is exciting, because one looks at the tombs of very different individuals. The composer Peter Kreuder lies side by side with Hjalmar Schacht, “Lord of the money” during the Third Reich (he was president of the Reichsbank from 1933 until 1939). Opposite to him, the tombstone of Thomas Wimmer has its place. Thomas Wimmer was Lord Mayor of Munich right after World War II. Besides other activities, he became famous for his call “Rama dama” (meaning “let´s clean up”) with which he summoned Munich´s citizens to the removal of debris left by war. Last, but not least, there is the mausoleum of the Moshammer family. There, the murdered Rudolph M. is buried besides his mother. If you want to commemorate the colorful fashion king in a minute´s silence: the mausoleum is located on the field of graves No. 60, behind the funeral parlour.
From there, I walked over to the crematorium which is tucked away in a corner of the cemetery. Over the decades, this crematorium has seen quite a varity of corpses. On one hand, an unknown number of political prisoners, who were assassinated in Stadelheim prison, as well as several thousand concentration camp inmates from Dachau, Auschwitz and Buchenwald were cremated here. On the other hand, Nazis were cremated there, too. Like the mortal remains of 17 National socialists who were killed during the “Röhmputsch” in 1934. Their ashes were filled at random in various urns to prevent them from ever being traced.
Finally, the Nuremberg trials found their end in the Ostfriedhof´s crematorium:
On October 17th in 1946, several lorries oft he US army came tot he crematorium. They carried a dozen coffins. As a cover, some of them were empty. Allegedly, the coffins contained the bodies of twelve US soldiers who were to be cremated under some officers´ supervision. But in fact the coffins contained the mortal remains of nine major war criminals of the NS regime, among others Joachim Ribbentrop (minister of Foreign Affairs), Julius Streicher (editor of “The Stürmer”) and Hermann Göring (General Field Marshal) who forestalled his execution by committing suicide. To avoid any later cult of the dead, the military government ordered to scatter the ashes over the river Isar.
And thus it happened.