By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER
BERLIN — A new burial area for lesbians only is being inaugurated this weekend in a two-century-old cemetery in the German capital.
A 400-square-meter (4,300-square-foot) area of the Lutheran Georgen Parochial cemetery, established in 1814 in central Berlin, will be reserved as a graveyard for up to 80 lesbians, said Usah Zachau, a spokeswoman for the Safia association, a national group primarily for elderly lesbians.
The association said it had created a burial area to be inaugurated Sunday, as a space “where life and death connect, distinctive forms of cemetery culture can develop and where the lesbian community can live together in the afterlife.”
The group was given use of the cemetery area for 30 years in exchange for cleaning up and landscaping the area, and promising to be responsible for its upkeep. In Germany is it customary to have long-term, renewable leases on burial plots rather than buy them outright.
“We don’t have to pay any rent, but we had to invest a lot of money to turn that part of the cemetery into a usable burial ground again,” Zachau said Tuesday.
The group commissioned a landscaping company to build winding sand paths and has reserved spaces for cremated ashes in urns and for the burial of bodies. The area is framed by oak, birch and yew trees.
Neighboring parts of the Lutheran cemetery, which is located near Alexanderplatz square, are currently not being used. Old, toppled tombstones are overgrown by weeds.
A spokesman for the Berlin Lutheran church said the agreement with the women’s group comes as part of the church’s efforts to “revitalize its cemetery grounds by cooperating with other groups.”
“We are also in an ongoing discussion with Muslim groups to see whether they can have their own plots on our cemeteries,” said Volker Jastrzembski.
The Lesbian and Gay Association of Berlin welcomed the creation of the cemetery.
“It increases the diversity of opportunities and is a nice opportunity for those lesbian women who want to be buried among other lesbians,” said spokesman Joerg Steinert.