The ashes of a notorious German Holocaust denier were buried last week in a plot that once housed the remains of a Jewish music scholar and still features his gravestone, prompting church officials to admit on Tuesday that they had made a mistake that needs to be rectified.
Henry Hafenmayer, a prominent 48-year-old neo-Nazi activist, was buried at the grave of Max Friedländer, a Prussian Jewish musicologist, in a ceremony attended by far-right extremists.
Friedländer died of a stroke in Berlin in 1934. Although from a Jewish family, he was a member of the Protestant Church.
“The explosiveness of the process of burying a right-wing extremist in place of a Protestant of Jewish descent and providing some sort of stage for right-wing mourners was not recognized in advance,” said the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg and Silesia. Upper Lusatia, which administers the cemetery, said in a statement posted on its website.
Hafenmayer, 48, who died of illness, became a hero of the far right after being sentenced to prison for anti-Semitic letters denying the Holocaust he sent to public institutions, the British Guardian newspaper reported.
He was buried in the southwestern Stahnsdorf cemetery in Brandenburg on Friday. Right-wing extremists attended the ceremony, including Horst Mahler, founding member of the German left wing Baader-Meinhof terror group. He then changed his ideology and became a far right extremist.
Photos from the burial ceremony posted on the internet showed that Hafenmayer’s urn was placed in a plot in front of Friedländer’s gravestone. The tombstone had been covered with a black cloth bearing the name of Hafenmayer and a quote from John 8:32: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “
“The burial of a Holocaust denier in the grave of Max Friedlaender is a terrible mistake and a heartbreaking process given our history,” Bishop Christian Stäblein said in the church statement. “We need to see immediately if and what we can undo. “
Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said it was unbearable for right-wing extremists to “haunt” Friedländer’s grave and desecrate it, the BBC reported.
The church said Friedländer’s plot had been reclaimed for further burials, as is common if a tomb’s lease is not renewed after a grace period. As a result, Friedländer’s cremated remains were moved to other land in 1980, the BBC reported.
But the tombstone was left in place because it was declared a classified monument.
Samuel Salzborn, Berlin’s head of anti-Semitism, lodged a criminal complaint with the Ministry of Justice on Tuesday.
“It is obvious that right-wing extremists have deliberately chosen a Jewish grave in order to disturb eternal peace by interning a Holocaust denier,” he told the Guardian.
Hafenmayer’s lawyer initially called for a more central plot for the neo-Nazi’s remnants, but this was rejected over fears he would become a rallying point for extremists, according to the Guardian report. A second request asked for a Friedländer’s former land and was granted, the church said, on the principle that every human being has the right to a final abode.