Leipzig’s largest cemetery is located near the Battle of Nations Monument in the southern part of the city. The complex is considered one of the largest cemeteries in Germany, covering an area of 82 hectares including the crematorium and columbarium located on the site. The building complex of the crematorium consists of two smaller chapels and a large main hall with a 63-meter high bell tower.
A place of superlatives
For 130 years, the people of Leipzig have buried their deceased at the Südfriedhof. With time, a park landscape has been created that invites visitors not only to quietly commemorate the dead. The cemetery is an island of tranquillity amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Whether it is the imposing grave monuments of impressive sepulchral architecture or the lush and diverse vegetation: the South Cemetery offers many facets that are worth a visit.
For centuries, the people of Leipzig had buried their dead in the Old St. John’s Cemetery at St. John’s Church. Since there was no room for expansion here, the city opened a New St. John’s Cemetery between Windmühlenstraße and Reitzenhainer Straße (today Prager Straße) in 1846. However, the rapid increase in the number of inhabitants and the ever-closer development of Thonberg and Neureudnitz soon made even this burial ground seem too small.
In the search for a new site, they found one in the Probstheida area. Here, where the Battle of the Nations had raged in 1813, there were large areas of agricultural land that could be purchased at a reasonable price. On 1 June 1886, the South Cemetery was opened as the city’s central cemetery by Lord Mayor Bruno Tröndlin. The city planning director Hugo Licht and the municipal garden director Otto Wittenberg were responsible for the design. The grounds are laid out in the shape of a linden leaf. Thus, the builders pick up on Leipzig’s original Slavic name: “The place where the lime trees stand.” The first site was 42 ha in size and intended for 60,000 graves. By the Second World War, extensions had been made to the current size of 82 ha. This makes Leipzig’s southern cemetery one of the largest parks of its kind in Germany. But despite the cemetery’s aesthetic landscape setting, many Leipzigers, especially the well-heeled, still preferred to be buried at the New Johannis Cemetery. It was only when the coveted family burial places along the cemetery walls were occupied that the southern cemetery became more popular. Today, visitors can find the graves of numerous famous Leipzigers here and admire a wide variety of grave monuments. Especially in spring, when the 10,000 rhododendrons are in bloom, the southern cemetery is a popular park.
Elaborate graves and notable personalities
At first, the southern cemetery did not enjoy great popularity. The people of Leipzig wanted to continue to be buried in the Johannisfriedhof. This finally changed when the trees and plants began to grow and the park character became visible. Moreover, Johannisfriedhof was soon bursting at the seams. To date, 560,000 Leipzigers have found their final resting place in the southern cemetery – including countless important entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, and architects. Some famous names on the gravestones are Georg Schwarz, Lene Voigt, or the Baedecker publishing family. Many of the resting places are of high artistic value and are listed monuments. Burials of coffins and urns still take place today.
I would like to list a few notable personalities known through the history of the city:
- Tomb of Arthur Hoffmann (resistance fighter, 1900-1945) – Arthur Hoffmann came from Silesia. After his apprenticeship as a carpenter, he was drafted in 1917 and returned as an opponent of the war. He had been a member of the KPD since 1922 and a member of the Red Front Fighters’ League since 1926. In 1925 he came to Leipzig and was a city councilor in 1929. In November 1933 he was arrested and sent to Waldheim prison, then to Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald concentration camps. After his release in 1937, he was one of the organizers of the anti-fascist resistance in Leipzig in the Schumann-Engert-Kresse group. On 19 July 1944, he was arrested again, sentenced to death in November, and executed in Dresden in January 1945.Arthur-Hoffmann-Straße, which leads from Bayrischer Bahnhof to Connewitz, is named after him. Until 1992 there was also a polytechnic secondary school of his name.
- Tomb of Hugo Licht (architect, 1841-1923) – Hugo Licht was Leipzig’s city planning director from 1879 to 1896. His most important building in Leipzig was the conversion of the Pleissenburg into the New City Hall (1899-1905) and its extension, the Stadthaus.Other surviving buildings in Leipzig are: the “Städtisches Kaufhaus” trade fair building, the “Rote Haus” in Philipp-Rosenthal-Str. (former infirmary) and the Grassimuseum on Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz (now the municipal library). He was involved in the administration building of the Leipziger Feuerversicherungs-AG (later known as the “Runde Ecke”, as it was used by the state security of the Leipzig district). He also designed the lookout tower in Rosenthal.
He created the grave monuments for Christian Philipp Tauchnitz in the North Cemetery and Otto Georgi in the South Cemetery.
In 1905, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Technical University of Dresden and in 1906 he became a titular professor by Leipzig University.
- Tomb of Erich Zeigner – Erich Zeigner studied law and economics at the University of Leipzig from 1905-1913 and graduated with a doctorate. He was Saxon Minister of Justice in 1921 and Minister-President of the Free State of Saxony from March 1923 but was removed from office shortly afterward because he had accepted two KPD members into the government. From 1928 to 1933 Zeigner worked as a journalist for various Saxon party newspapers and was head of an SPD legal information office in Leipzig.
In August 1933 he was imprisoned (again), but acquitted in 1935. Since then he had to live on casual labor. In August 1944 he was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp. In July 1945, Zeigner was appointed Lord Mayor of Leipzig by the military commander of the Soviet Military Administration in Leipzig. He held this office until his death. In October 1946 he was confirmed by-election.
From 1948 to 1949 he was also professor and director of the Institute for Administrative Law at the University of Leipzig. Tomb of Otto Georgi – Otto Georgi, who came from Mylau, studied law at the universities of Leipzig, Göttingen and Heidelberg and graduated with a doctorate. In 1859 he settled in Leipzig as a lawyer and notary public. In 1876 he was appointed mayor of the city of Leipzig and was given the title of Lord Mayor after Leipzig’s rise to a major city from December 1877. He retained this office until his retirement in 1899, and the city made him an honorary citizen. During his tenure, Leipzig became the fourth largest city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. During his term of office, the new Gewandhaus was built in 1884, the Leipzig Conservatory in 1887, the Imperial Court (today: Federal Administrative Court) in 1888, and the University Library in 1891.
- Tomb of William Zipperer – William Zipperer came from Dresden. He was one of the co-founders of the KPD and worked as an editor of the “Sächsische Arbeiterzeitung” in Leipzig. Before 1933 he was expelled from the KPD for being an “ultra-leftist”. After 1933 he was active in the resistance and joined the Schumann-Engert-Kresse group in 1941. He was arrested in July 1944, sentenced to death in September, and executed in January. In August 1945, a street in Leipzig where he had lived with his family was named after him.
- Kurt Kresse Tomb – Kurt Kresse came from Leipzig and learned the trade of a book printer. In 1924 he joined the KPD and later became a member of the KPD district leadership of West Saxony. In the last years of the Weimar Republic, Kresse was chairman of the workers’ sports club “Fichte” in Leipzig.
After the National Socialists seized power, he was arrested twice but continued his resistance. He distributed leaflets and organized aid for foreign forced laborers. In 1944 he was arrested, sentenced to death, and executed on 11 January 1945. His younger brother Walter Kresse was Lord Mayor of Leipzig from 1959-1970.
- Julius Blüthner (manufacturer, piano builder; 1824-1910) – Julius Blüthner began working as an eighteen-year-old cabinetmaker in a piano factory and discovered his love of piano building. In 1853, he founded the Blüthner piano factory in Leipzig. Blüthner pianos are particularly noble, high-quality instruments. He became the courtier of the Danish King and the Russian Tsar Nicholas II.
He introduced insurance for his employees and a support fund for invalids and old workers. He was a member of the Apollo Masonic Lodge, which also included the sculptor Bruno Eyermann, the construction manager of the Monument to the Battle of the Nations Clemens Thieme, the Leipzig industrial pioneer Carl Heine and the Hamburg zoo director Ernst Brehm.
- Tomb of Fritz Baedeker (publisher, 1844-1925) -For a long time, “Baedeker” has been synonymous with a travel guide. Fritz Baedeker took over his father’s publishing house and moved it from Koblenz to Leipzig in 1872. In 1909, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Leipzig. The Leipzig publishing house in Nürnberger Straße was destroyed in 1943. Today, the publishing house is located in Ostfildern, Baden-Württemberg.The gravesite was created by Waldemar Vogel.
From rhododendron bushes, up to four meters high to amber trees, mahonias, and ornamental cherries to primeval redwoods, weeping ash trees, antler trees, ginkgos, and various species of lime tree – the park-like resting place impresses with an enormous variety of plants. Walking around the grounds, you can hear the chirping of 60 species of breeding birds. Squirrels climb in the trees and with a bit of luck you can spot rabbits or foxes in the quiet morning and evening hours.