The Jüdischer Friedhof Berlin-Weißensee, or just Weißensee Cemetery, lies behind tall walls near the heart of Berlin. Opened in 1880 and covering about 42 hectare of land it is Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery by area, containing almost 116.000 graves. Inside the walls of this heritage site it feels like a different place and time. The old graves and monuments are being overtaken by plants, birds are singing, and nothing is to be heard of the city life.
Despite the tranquil surroundings, upon closer inspection the gravestones also paint a harrowing picture of a horrible time in human history. Facing the pogrom, many Jewish citizens of Berlin took their own life between 1933 and 1945. A total of 1907 of them are buried here.
In stark contrast to many other Jewish cemeteries, this one was never defiled during the Second World War and only suffered damages from bombings between 1943 and 1945. Why exactly the Nazis spared this landmark of Jewish history isn’t fully resolved. While the sheer size might have played a part, contemporary witnesses also suggested something entirely different: superstition.
According to this theory, the Nazis believed in a Golem living in the cemetery and defending it against attackers. Rumours about “something not quite right” with the place made the rounds, ensuring that no military or police entered the cemetery during the Nazi regime.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery is easily reached by public transport via stop Albertinenstraße, from where it is just a short walk. The main entrance can be found at the end of Herbert-Baum-Straße.
Male visitors have to cover their heads, kippahs can be borrowed at the entrance for the duration of the visit.
Entrance to the cemetery is free, but large groups and tours are required to pay 1 Euro per person. Donations for the preservation of the cemetery are encouraged.