For some, she was a film star who embodied all the complexity of being German in the last century. For others, it was a part of their fantasies. For me, she was a movie icon, so I decided to visit Marlene Dietrich’s grave in Berlin-Friedenau once I discovered where it was located.
Marlene Dietrich was born Marie Magdalene Dietrich in December 1901 in Berlin-Schöneberg. Throughout her long career, she continually reinvented herself, much like our favorite honorary Berliner, David Bowie. She rose to fame in the 1920s Berlin, where she acted in silent films and onstage.
In 1930, her performance in The Blue Angel caught the world’s attention, and she started acting in Hollywood movies. During the Second World War, she created funds and helped exile Jews to escape persecution in Germany.
She became an American citizen in 1939 and renounced her German citizenship while traveling to war zones in Europe, where she entertained American soldiers who were fighting against Nazi Germany.
Some people in Germany never forgot this, and those choices are hard to forgive. When she visited the country in 1960, she faced anonymous threats and vowed never to return to Germany.
Today, her resting place is the Städtischer Friedhof in Berlin-Friedenau.
When Marlene Dietrich died in Paris, aged 90, in May of 1992, few people expected her to be buried in Berlin. But her final wishes were to be buried near her mother. This is why Marlene Dietrich’s grave can be found in a Schöneberg cemetery near where she was born.
For me, it’s hard to understand all the reactions that her choice to be buried in Berlin attracted. In 1993, Marlene Dietrich’s grave was even desecrated. For me, her actions of taking the side of the enemy against what Nazi Germany was doing is heroic. The fact that she did so in love for a better country, a better Germany, should be enough for people to show their respect.
The III. Städtischer Friedhof Stubenrauchstraße is a state-owned cemetery that was created back in 1881 when Friedenau was still a rural community. It was expanded a few times until it reached its current size in 1912.
Today, it’s the final resting place of numerous painters, writers, actors, and musicians. Besides Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), you will find the last resting place of Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924), Helmut Newton (1920–2004), and many more.
Marlene Dietrich Grave in Berlin: a visit to Städtischer Friedhof in Friedenau