Film company to rebuild Danish Girl's Dresden grave

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Tom Barfield - [email protected]
Film company to rebuild Danish Girl's Dresden grave
Eddie Redmayne portrayed Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl. Photo: Universal Pictures/dpa

The Dresden grave of trailblazing trans woman Lili Elbe is to get a new tombstone – funded by the company behind a hit film about her life.


“It was important to us that Lili Elbe showed so much courage in her time,” cemetery manager Beatrice Teichmann told The Local when asked why the grave was to be rebuilt.

The Danish Girl, released in German cinemas in January, tells the story of Elbe, who was one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Elbe was born Einar Wegener in 1882 in Denmark, and became a famous painter.

But although he enjoyed career success and was happily married, Wegener was never comfortable living as a man.

The couple moved to Paris where Elbe could live as a woman and her wife, Gerda Gottlieb, as a lesbian.

But in 1930 Elbe travelled to Germany for sex reassignment surgery – a highly experimental procedure at the time.

She underwent a series of four operations over the course of the following months in Berlin and later Dresden, but a final procedure to transplant a womb – decades before the invention of drugs to prevent the body rejecting transplants – proved fatal.

Elbe died in 1931 and was buried in the Trinity Cemetery belonging to the Evangelical Church in Dresden.

For unknown reasons, the gravestone was removed sometime in the 1950s or 1960s – but no-one else has been buried in the plot since.

Now Focus Features – the company behind The Danish Girl movie – has offered to cover the €4,100 costs to reconstruct Elbe's grave. 

The grave is to be officially inaugurated on Friday at a ceremony attended by the Danish ambassador to Germany, film producer Gail Mutrux and David Ebershoff, author of the novel that became the Danish Girl movie.

“The idea was to have a place to remember her again,” cemetery manager Teichmann said.

Teichmann asks that anyone wishing to contribute to commemorating Elbe make a small donation rather than sending flowers. Bank details can be found on the Evangelical Community website.


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