“We are the first real generation of emancipated, feminist, open lesbians, and we need somewhere to be buried,” said Dr Astrid Osterland from Safia, an association for older, mostly gay women.
Hitting back at criticism of the burial area in the Georgen-Parochial-Friedhof, Osterland explained that the project had “absolutely nothing against men”. They are welcome to have their urns here, but women will get first pick of the plots, the 69-year-old said, who has her own spot reserved.
“There is no reason to be buried anonymously anymore and like everyone else, I want to lie with the people I've fought with,” she said. This was, she explained, logistically easier in a specific cemetery.
Safia has around 500 members, largely lesbians, all over the age of 40. For them, the cemetery is a “living project for after death,” said Osterland, adding that “lots of us live alone, and we're getting older”.
They spent about three years looking for a graveyard and eventually found a 400-metre-square patch in northern Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district.
Gay men have long had their own resting places, she added.
“I'd say there are about 50 plots for coffins,” said Osterland, adding that there was plenty of urn space alongside that.
About 20 people have registered interest so far. The entire project is funded by the association, and upkeep will be sorted by the women, who have had no funding from the state.
The project has garnered attention from Berlin's press, with some papers criticizing the idea for being exclusive. “This was never intended,” said Osterland, adding there were no strict rules on heterosexuals being buried there too.
Currently there are no plans for a similar cemetery elsewhere, but Safia has not ruled it out.
“I hope this can be an example,” said Osterland. “[But] we're busy enough with just one for now.”