What Types of Burials Are Allowed in Germany?
Updated: Jun 2
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A funeral is the end of the life story of the person who passed away; it is a farewell celebration to see the deceased ascend to heaven; it is a movie premiere for the family to look back on the wonderful journey of the deceased; it is the culmination of the family's love and non-abandonment for the deceased, their regret and sorrow for the death, their letting go and peace of separation, and their hope for a new chapter in their lives.
The greatest respect for the deceased is arranging a proper and heartfelt burial for them. We can use cremation to give the bones of the deceased a final glow. There are also options such as water burials, where the ashes are scattered in rivers, oceans, and lakes so that the soul of the deceased can pass through the world with the flowing water. In addition to the two types of burials mentioned above, funeral homes in Germany offer other permissible types of burial, which are described in more detail below.
What Forms of Burial Are Possible in Germany?
Burial in the ground is a traditional type of burial in which the body of the deceased is buried in the soil of the earth. Interment in the ground means that the body is placed in a coffin and the coffin is then buried underground. The coffin can be customized according to the wishes of the family of the deceased, but only if the material used for the coffin is naturally decomposable.
In Germany, internment is only possible in cemeteries with the help of a funeral home, and private individuals are not entitled to be buried on any private property. However, since 2015, citizens of Bremen are able to bury the ashes of their deceased loved ones in their own garden with the help of a funeral home, as long as the deceased has stated in writing during their lifetime that they wished to be buried on private property and designated a person to bury the ashes.
Cremation is also a very traditional form of burial. Cremation refers to the funeral tradition in which the body of the deceased is cremated and then their ashes are interred. Usually, the ashes are interred in an urn. There are very many options for what to do with the urn, and that is one of the advantages of cremation. The urn does not have to be buried in the ground, although this is a common practice in Germany.
In cemeteries, funeral homes can arrange to bury urns in a classic urn grave, in a columbarium, in a pit, or in an urn monument. The urn grave is surrounded by a stone slab engraved with the name and lifetime of the deceased. An urn monument is a type of commemorative stone column on which the name and living date of the deceased are also engraved. If the urn is to be buried underground, the urn must be treated as a casket, and a decision must be made prior to the internment regarding whether the urn will be buried in an optional grave or in a single grave.
Burial at Sea
Sea burial is a type of natural burial. Besides burying the urn in a cemetery, the family of the deceased can also choose to have the ashes of the deceased buried in the sea. The urn can be buried in the North Sea or the Baltic Sea, and the deceased's family will receive the coordinates of the location where the urn is to be buried at the bottom of the sea. In addition, the urn itself must be made of special, water-soluble materials such as salt and papier-mâché. If the urn sinks more than three miles below the surface of the sea, the urn will be dissolved by the sea and the ashes will flow with the ocean currents to anywhere in the world.
Tree burial is also one of the natural burials allowed in Germany. Tree burial is a burial in which the urn of the deceased is interred beneath the roots of a tree chosen by the deceased during his or her lifetime. They find their final resting place in the roots under a canopy of green leaves. Similar to burial in the ground, tree burials can only be performed with the help of a funeral director in areas permitted by the Burial Law, also known as forest cemeteries.
One of the most frequently asked questions on this topic is: Is anonymous burial allowed in Germany? And the answer is: Yes, of course! If the deceased chose an anonymous burial during his or her lifetime, or if the deceased's family chose to have an anonymous burial, there is no headstone, the deceased's name is not mentioned during the funeral, and the family cannot attend the funeral or find out through the funeral home where the deceased is buried. In some German cities, complete anonymity is gradually being replaced by semi- or partially anonymous burials. This means that the family of the deceased may be present at the cemetery and be told about the exact location of the burial spot by the funeral home. Anonymous burial is a very cost-effective form of burial, as neither a funeral service nor regular maintenance of the cemetery is required.
Which Types of Burials Are Prohibited in Germany?
You may think how meaningful it would be to scatter the ashes of a deceased loved one into the air from a hot air balloon. You might wish that the ashes of a deceased family member were buried in a large meadow so that he or she could rest in green peace after death. You might also think that turning the ashes of the deceased into a sparkling diamond would be the best kind of burial. But unfortunately, due to strict German burial laws, none of these types of burial are allowed in Germany. The types of burial listed below, such as scattering ashes in the air, grassland burial, and diamond burial, are basically not available at German funeral homes.
Scattering Ashes in the Air
Nature lovers wish to find their final resting place in the beauty of nature. Air burial, one of the natural burial options, can fulfill the wishes of these nature lovers, just like sea burial and tree burial. If one decides to have an air burial, the ashes of the deceased are scattered directly high from the sky. In order to have an air burial, cremation is required, as the deceased's remains must be cremated to ashes before they can be scattered into the air from an airplane.
Air burial is very different from other forms of urn burial. This is because the ashes of the deceased are not buried in the ground, as is usually the case, but are scattered from an airplane. Unlike in many other European countries, funeral homes in Germany are not allowed to perform air burials due to strict burial laws. In cases of certain types of air burial abroad, relatives can attend to witness the scattering of the ashes from high above the ground. Air burials are performed with the help of various flying devices such as airplanes or helicopters, hot air balloons, and helium or weather balloons.
An alpine grassland burial is a form of natural burial. For many nature lovers, finding their final resting place in the great outdoors is an incomparable wish. If the deceased has chosen this type of burial during his or her lifetime, the ashes will be scattered or buried in all directions in the meadow. The alpine meadow burial was invented in Switzerland. Unlike in Germany where burials in alpine meadows are forbidden, there is no compulsory burial in Switzerland. However, people living in Germany can negotiate with the local German funeral home to have the ashes transferred to Switzerland, where a Swiss funeral home can bury them in a meadow so that the wish for a grassland burial can still be fulfilled in Switzerland.
Similar to sea burials and tree burials, a rock burial usually takes place in magnificent and majestic nature. This is especially the case in mountainous regions such as the Alps. More and more people choose to be buried in this way because of the beautiful surroundings where the burial takes place. At a rock burial, for which cremation is required, the cremated ashes of the deceased can be kept in an urn and then buried in a layer of earth on a rock face. The ashes of the deceased may also be scattered on the side of a cliff. Due to strict burial laws in Germany, no funeral home in Germany currently offers this form of burial. It is in Switzerland that rock burials are most common.
Many people ask whether Viking burial is allowed in Germany. But the answer will often disappoint them. Due to the German burial law, Viking burial is basically forbidden. A Viking burial is also known as a boat burial. The Vikings believed that death did not separate the soul from the body, and considered it a continuation of life. After death, the deceased person would go to the other world. So the Vikings would provide the boat in which the body was stored, sometimes with furniture, servants, or family members on board.
When the burial ship sank to the bottom of the sea, the deceased departed to the new world after death, and the furniture and servants on the ship were there to serve him or her in the afterlife world. Boat burials took place in many countries and were usually associated with the gods of Norse mythology. Viking burial ships could also be burned on land and then buried under a mountain, a burial mound.
In modern funeral ships, only the remains of the deceased are kept. Due to the strict German burial law, funeral homes are generally not allowed to offer this form of burial in Germany. There is one funeral home in Germany that has found a loophole through the funeral law and can now offer this Viking burial, where the bones of a loved one can be cremated in a boat in the middle of a lake, as the Vikings did.
Diamond burial is a special form of burial or memorial service that is still emerging. The prerequisite for a diamond burial involves cremation, as the ashes of the deceased are needed to create a memorial diamond. The ashes or hair of the deceased can be transformed into a sparkling, timeless diamond by replicating in a laboratory the high temperature and pressure conditions under which mined diamonds are formed in nature. The whole process of a diamond burial is actually more complicated.
In Germany, diamond burials are not permitted due to the obligation to have a cemetery and the compulsory burial under the German Burial Law. However, there are service providers in neighboring countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria that are able to provide such diamond burials. Switzerland is particularly well known for diamond burials. Some memorial service providers in Switzerland can help German clients who want to have a diamond burial by negotiating with the local funeral home in Germany to send some of the ashes to Switzerland, where they will be processed into materials for diamond burial and sent back to the client. Many foreign companies can arrange a diamond burial, including LifeGem, Eterneva, Algordanza, LONITÉ, EverDear, and more.
LONITÉ, a Swiss company with a world-leading research laboratory specializing in diamond burial, is a prime example. Memorial diamonds created in the laboratory are as genuine as those created in nature. Natural diamonds are formed in an extremely high pressure and high temperature (HPHT) environment deep underground, and LONITÉ's laboratory is able to create similar conditions to press ashes into memorial diamonds.
Thanks to LONITÉ's high-quality memorial diamond creation service offered worldwide, diamond burials are now available in Germany and Austria. To hold the diamond burial, the hair and ashes of the deceased are sent to LONITÉ's laboratory in Switzerland. The clearly colorless memorial diamonds produced in the LONITÉ laboratory have a carbon purity of up to 99.99%. LONITÉ offers a wide range of diamond cuts and color choices and even provides customization services for clients with special diamond burial requirements. Customers can also choose to have their memorial diamonds processed into memorial diamond jewelry at LONITÉ.