In Heaven Underground: The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery is a film I will not soon forget. The soundtrack, alone, stirred my heart. The cinematography is stunning, showing the cemetery set within 100 acres of prime forest, within the boundaries of the city of Berlin.
The forest and its life forms, from trees to birds to foxes, to vegetation and to the most minute forms of life, surround the over 115,000 graves. Life thrives within the grave sites, both above and underground in Wiessensee Jewish Cemetery.
The film shows individuals visiting graves, individuals who have traveled far to find the graves of ancestors, students in an art class creating head stone rubbings, bird watchers, and so much more. It also shows how many individuals strive to keep the cemetery from becoming overgrown, which is almost impossible with over 115,000 grave sites. Trees that have fallen are removed from grave sites, some are cut down in order to prevent them from falling on graves or destroying headstones. Headstones are repaired by various organizations. Life in all of its forces continues its stronghold within the cemetery walls in ways I could not imagine. It is a very affecting film.
The 130 year old cemetery has withstood wars, including World War II and the Nazi rule. For some unknown reason, the Nazis left the cemetery alone and untouched. There are theories as to why, but nobody actually knows the true reason. Some feel that the Germans were afraid of a Golem, while others feel they just didn’t get around to removing it. Whatever the reason, the cemetery stands as a testament of history and time. It still accepts those for burial, to this day.
It is not only a film depicting deep Jewish historical value, but also a film that is inspiring, heartfelt, soulful, and one that defines Jewish rituals, values and traditions. In Heaven Underground: The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery is a tribute to those buried there, a tribute to living Jews and to the deceased Jews buried within its walls. It is a tribute to life, and as the title suggests, a tribute to what lies underground. I highly recommend it to everyone.
January 17, 2012 – 22 Tevet, 5772
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