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3. May 2023


Being Seen – Memorial service for lonely deceased held in Kassel for the first time in April

Who actually says goodbye to people who have no relatives or friends? An answer to this question was now given at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture with the event "Being Seen – Memorial Service For Lonely Deceased". Heilhaus Kassel, the Protestant Church in Kassel and the Museum for Sepulchral Culture had joined forces in cooperation with the city of Kassel to bring those back into the circle of society in remembrance through a joint ritual, who fell out of it during their lifetime and in their death.

"The commemoration aims to bring about a respect for the unseen by looking as a community at what was lost to us," says museum director Dr. Dirk Pörschmann. Every year, several dozen people die in our city of Kassel without relatives escorting them out of the life or taking care of their burial. The number of Ordnungsamt funerals has steadily increased in recent decades because more and more people have no relatives. The organization of the so-called last things becomes an act that the municipality has to manage.

Thus, on Saturday, April 29, 2023, a total of 60 names were read out – of 60 people aged from newborn to 91 years who died last year. They were all buried by the Ordnungsamt of the city of Kassel. This happens every third Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m. at the main cemetery. "Anyone who dies here has the right to be buried here," says Dirk Stoll, pastor for funeral culture in the Kassel City Church District. He gives a speech, recites a Bible verse, and then the funeral proceeds to a spot in the cemetery where the urns of the deceased are buried anonymously in a row. The ritual is accompanied by an employee of the hospice association. From time to time, visitors come to accompany the burial.

Well over a hundred visitors came to the memorial service in the museum. They took their seats on rows of chairs arranged in a circle, in the middle of which a spiral of tea lights was set up – 60 lights and one large candle, for the lonely deceased, whose name was not revealed. Musical accompaniment for the evening was provided by Klaus-Dieter Ammerbach and Nicole King on bassoon and Regine von Lühmann on harp. The names of the deceased were read in blocks by Mayor Ilona Friedrich, City Dean Dr. Michael Glöckner, Viviane Clauss and Gerhard Paul (Heilhaus) and Dirk Pörschmann, who, like Katrin Jahns of the Evangelical Church in Kassel, also read a lyrical text. Afterwards, the visitors gathered in the cafeteria of the museum for an exchange.

Who were the people who died?

The list with the names and ages of the deceased had been provided by the Ordnungsamt of the city of Kassel.  The majority of the people were older than 60 years, most of them male. Dirk Pörschmann attributes this to men's lack of communicative ability to stay in touch with other people even at an advanced age, perhaps after the death of their wives. "Many people end up in an unfamiliar area for work and then have no relatives there who can take care of the funeral." (Dirk Stoll)

It can be a comfort, Pörschmann said, to know during one's lifetime that this memorial service exists for those who have died alone. Similar formats already exist in other German cities. The initiative to organize a memorial service for those who have died alone came from the Heilhaus in Kassel. The Protestant Church in Kassel and the Museum for Sepulchral Culture joined in. In the coming years, the memorial service will be organized at different locations of the current and future cooperation partners. In April 2024, the commemoration will take place at the Heilhaus.

Anna Lischper




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Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V.

Zentralinstitut für Sepulkralkultur

Museum für Sepulkralkultur

Weinbergstraße 25–27
D-34117 Kassel | Germany
Tel. +49 (0)561 918 93-0

Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien
Hessisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst
Kassel Documenta Stadt
Deutsche Bischofskonferenz