Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Passing through the Friedhöfe Vor Dem Halleschen Tor (cemeteries between Mehringdamm, Zossener-, Blücher- and Baruther Strasse, I was stopped by a happily round gentleman who was keen on telling me the story behind two of the graves I had just stopped next to.
He turned out to be a guide, with regular tours of the cemeteries taking place every Sunday at 2pm. His knowledge of the place was so immense and the way of sharing it so entertaining that I spent another 15 minutes listening to him instead of hurrying on as I, in fact, should have.
It paid to stay and it paid to listen. I am armed with so much fresh knowledge that if history could fly, I´d be floating over Kreuzberg like a zeppelin on drugs.
One of the stories he shared with me referred to the tombstone considered to be a masterpiece of not only funeral art but of Art in general. The veiled woman, an Old-Testament angel carrying olive branches on one arm and a wreath on the other is about to pass through a slowly opening door. As far as allegories go, this one is simply perfect. Just as it is mesmerising.
Allegedly, the tombstone was ordered by a wife of an extremely rich Berlin businessman and a widely-known local philanderer. He cheated on his long-suffering wife and made her a laughing stock among other well-heeled ladies (he naively believed that their husbands would be faithful little Täubchen).
So when the rich man died, his wife paid a fortune for a magnificent grave and had the tombstone made by the best artists of the time. The only thing she forgot to order was to have the man´s name engraved in stone as well. And thus he was buried un-named. With a beautiful young woman forever teasing him from the small distance just over his head…
I was till laughing by the time I left the cemetery and reached home. This story has to be to told on this blog, I thought and opened my photo-file for the Cemeteries Before The Gate to Halle.
And there it was. I do not possess many pre-WW2 pictures of the place (there were not many taken, as a matter of fact) but I have some. And as if by miracle, I have one of the said grave.
And do you know what I saw in it? A name-plate. Even though the only thing I could read was the first name (Ferdinand), this man was definitely not buried to be forgotten.
But even though the story I was told might not be exactly true (there can be something true about it, however: considering the wayward ways of many successful husbands, there should be plenty of such graves), I am still glad I stopped and listened to that man. He gave me one anecdote and a hundred fascinating facts.
And that´s why you should always talk to strangers:-)