‘Terrible mistake’: German neo-Nazi’s ashes buried in Jewish scholar’s plot

By Philip Oltermann in Berlin
The urn burial of the well-known Shoah denier Henry Hafenmayer in the south-west cemetery in Stahnsdorf was a scene meeting of well-known anti-Semites, revisionists and neo-Nazis convicted of hate speech. Among those gathered were Horst Mahler, Sylvia Stolz, Thomas Wulff, Nikolai Nerling, Uwe Meenen, Manfred Dammann, Rigolf Hennig, Gerd Walther, Dennis Ingo Schulz and Michel Fischer. Pascal Ostholte and Mathias Deyda (Dierechte) had come from Dortmund. With Michele Renouf and Peter Rushton, people from the international revisionist scene were also on site.
Henry Hafenmayer, a 48-year-old neo-Nazi activist, was laid to rest last Friday at the Stahnsdorf South-Western cemetery in Brandenburg. Photograph: RechercheNetzwerk.Berlin

The church management of a cemetery outside Berlin has said it made a “terrible mistake” by allowing the ashes of a prominent Holocaust denier to be buried in the gravesite of a Jewish-born musicologist.

Henry Hafenmayer, a 48-year-old neo-Nazi activist, was laid to rest last Friday at Stahnsdorf South-Western cemetery in Brandenburg in a ceremony that was attended by notorious rightwing extremists including Horst Mahler, the founding member of the Baader-Meinhof group turned neo-Nazi.

Before his illness-related death in August, Hafenmayer had gained martyrdom status in German rightwing extremist circles after being sentenced to prison over a series of antisemitic letters to public institutions that described the Holocaust as a “lie”.

Photographs of the burial show that Hafenmayer’s urn was laid to rest on a burial plot in front of a gravestone of the Jewish scholar Max Friedländer, a Prussian-born singer and music scholar who died of a stroke in Berlin in 1934.

During the burial, Friedländer’s gravestone was covered up with a black cloth and a sign bearing Hafenmayer’s name and a quotation from John 8:32: “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

The Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia, which manages the 200-hectare cemetery, said the burial plot had been reclaimed for new burials and Friedländer’s cremated remains removed, as is common practice with gravesites whose leases are not renewed after a “rest period” of 10 to 20 years.

Friedländer’s headstone had been left standing since it was declared a listed monument, however.

The graveyard’s management said it had rejected an initial request from the neo-Nazi’s attorney for a more centrally located funeral plot, out of fear the Stahnsdorf South-Western cemetery could become a rallying point for rightwing extremists.

A follow-up request to bury Hafenmayer at the site of Friedländer’s former grave had been granted based on the principle that every human being has “a right for a final resting place”, and because the cemetery’s register listed the musician and scholar as being a Protestant at the time of his death.

Nonetheless, the church conceded it had misjudged the situation and was looking into moving the urn containing the neo-Nazi’s ashes to another plot.

“The interment of a Holocaust denier at Max Friedländer’s gravesite is a terrible mistake and a staggering course of events in view of our history,” said Christian Stäblein, a bishop at the The Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia. “We have to immediately look into whether we can revert this process.”

Berlin’s antisemitism officer, Samuel Salzborn, on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint at the justice department. “It is obvious that rightwing extremists deliberately chose a Jewish grave in order to disturb the eternal peace through interment of a Holocaust denier.”

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