The Jewish Cemetery

Hidden behind a high, red-brick wall on the corner of Møllegade and Guldbergsgade in Nørrebro is Denmark’s oldest Jewish cemetery. Since 1693, Danish Jews have been buried under the tall lime trees and wild-growing plants here in Beit Olam (Hebrew for the House of Eternity), where the atmosphere is at once solemn and informal.

The ancient, unostentatious weathered gravestones stand cheek by jowl around the cemetery, among the wild plants that spread across the graves.

The more than 6,000 people buried here will remain in their resting places for all time – according to Jewish custom, the deceased must never be removed from a grave. Nearly half of the gravestones remain in place, almost all facing the same direction: towards Jerusalem.

The site seems both unkempt and uniform because, according to Jewish tradition, all people are ‘equal in death’, so there is no difference between the graves.

You won’t see any bouquets here either, as Jewish people don’t pick living flowers to honour the dead, but  instead leave a small stone on the grave as a sign of respect.

The cemetery was closed for many years, but since 2011 it has been open to the public four days a week. Signs provide information about the site, Jewish customs and the famous people buried here who made an impact on Danish society.

Photo: Søren Rud

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