Jewish cemetery at Schönhauser Allee

Following an edict of the Royal government in 1817 banning the creation of new cemeteries within the city walls, the Jewish community had a new, five-hectare burial ground laid out at Schönhauser Tor on severe geometric lines by Berlin’s City Architect, Friedrich Wilhelm Langerhans (1780-1851), in the years 1824-1827. To the left of the main entrance at Schönhauser Allee were the hall of mourning – a Neo-Romanesque brick building designed by the community’s architect, Johann Hoeniger (1850-1913), about 1895 – the mortuary, and an ancillary building. They replaced the more modest Classicist structures of Langerhans.

The consecration of the cemetery took place on 29 June 1827 with the first burial. In the following decades over 20,000 graves and 700 family plots were laid out in the cemetery. In addition to the traditionally modest form of grave steles the cemetery at the Schönhauser Allee also contains grandiose family tombs.

The list of famous Berlin personalities who were buried in the cemetery reads like an extract from a Who‘s Who of the 19th century. They include scholars, scientists, artists, politicians, publishers, business entrepreneurs and founders of social institutions. The following names may be mentioned as representative of many: the co-founder of the modern historiography of Judaism, Leopold Zunz (1794-1886); the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864); and the painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935); the Berlin city councillor David Friedländer (1750-1834); the publisher Leopold Ullstein (1826-1899); the banker Gerson v. Bleichröder (1822-1893); and the founder of the Second Old People’s Home of the Jewish Community, Moritz Manheimer (1826-1916).

The cemetery was closed in 1880 with the opening of the large new cemetery in Weissensee. Thereafter the only burials that took place in the Schönhauser Allee cemetery were in the existing family gravesites; the last was in the 1970s.

Bombing hits during the Second World War destroyed nearly all the cemetery buildings and devastated many burial sites. All that remains of the main portal today are the round-arched side entrance on the right and the double grille of the central entrance. In the entrance area commemorative plaques dating from the 1970s remind visitors of the fate of the cemetery. In 2005, in place of the ceremonial hall which was destroyed during the Second World War, a lapidarium was set up containing 60 gravestones whose original sites could not be ascertained, as well as illustrated charts on Jewish cemetery culture and Jewish mourning rituals.