Burial of German neo-Nazi in Jewish music scholar's plot sparks outrage

Burial described as a "terrible mistake" leads Berlin anti-Semitism official to file criminal report with department of justice.

Dan Verbin ,

Headstone at Jewish cemetery (illustrative)
Headstone at Jewish cemetery (illustrative)

The burial of a neo-Nazi in the plot of a Jewish music scholar has caused an outcry in Germany.

German media reported that well known Holocaust denier Henry Hafenmayer was buried on Friday in a vacant plot in a Stahnsdorf cemetery that had been the burial site of Professor Max Friedlaender.

Friedlaender’s remains were moved to another site in 1980. However, his headstone still stands at the site in the cemetery outside Berlin, reported BBC News.

Friedlaender was a bass singer and musicologist whose specialty was the music of Franz Schubert. He died in 1934.

German media described Hafenmayer as a Holocaust denier and blogger who was associated with several neo-Nazi groups.

On Wednesday, a local church official called the situation a serious error.

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

Wreaths placed on the grave by Neo-Nazi supporters contained nationalist messages and ribbons with Nazi iron cross symbols. A photograph of Hafenmayer was also placed in front of Friedlaender’s headstone which was covered up with a black cloth and a sign with Hafenmayer’s name and a religious quote.

The mourners included Horst Mahler, who spent years in jail for racist incitement, according to German media.

The church said that the burial plot had been reused as is standard practice after a “rest period” of between one and two decades, The Guardian reported.

Friedlaender’s headstone was still present at the plot because the site was declared a protected monument.

On Tuesday, Samuel Salzborn, the Berlin official tasked with combating anti-Semitism, filed a criminal report with the department of justice.

“It is obvious that right wing extremists deliberately chose a Jewish grave in order to disturb the eternal peace through interment of a Holocaust denier,” Salzborn said.

According to The Guardian, before his death in August, Hafenmayer has attained celebrity-like status among German neo-Nazi groups after he was handed a prison sentence for sending letters calling the Holocaust a “lie” to German public institutions.