Restoration of the Mendelssohn graves in the Jewish Cemetery on Schönhauser Allee

Sebastian Panwitz, a historian and a member of the Geschichtsforum Jägerstrasse and Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft, had repeatedly called attention to the need to restore the Mendelssohn graves on Schönhauser Allee. Whereas Moses Mendelssohn’s grave site on Grosse Hamburger Strasse and the graves of the Hensels and Mendelssohn Bartholdys near Hallesches Tor were in good condition, having been accorded the status of graves of honor, the grave sites of bank founder Joseph Mendelssohn (1770 to 1847) and his family were unkempt, their headstones by now barely legible.

An application filed in 2007 with the President of the Berlin City Parliament to have Joseph Mendelssohn’s burial site included among the city’s graves of honor, in light of his having been a generous sponsor of many charitable efforts in the city for several decades, had been rejected. At the prompting of the Berlin Senate Chancellery, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz and the Jewish Community of Berlin stepped in to finance the restoration of the "Grave of Honor of Joseph Mendelssohn,” which is located along the eastern wall of the cemetery, to the right of the gate leading to the so-called Judengang (Jewish pathway), also known as the Kommunikation (communicating pathway). Additional support was pledged by the Geschichtsforum Jägerstrasse.

The agreed plan called for “conservational repairs with specific points of emphasis” within the framework of the limited funds available (€ 10,000). The measures taken by the companies hired for the job, Rentmeister and Wloch, included the following: setting up of the construction site; delivery and removal of materials; setup and disassembly of equipment, including a scaffolding structure and rain screen; a color analysis of the grave wall, the inscribed marble plaque and granite steles: non-destructive cleaning of the grave wall, granite steels and sills; excavation of the soil in front of the wall and fill-in with a layer of gravel; compaction of the seepage layer to minimize ascending moisture; re-gilding of the “Mendelssohn” inscription on the marble plaque; demolition and cleaning of the four headstones; touch-up gilding of 512 letters; reconstruction of four headstones. The sandstone consoles below the seating bench were grouted, the lower sides of the bench were repaired with mineral mortar, as were two plastered areas on the grave wall.

The restoration work was successfully completed in time for the Mendelssohn family reunion in October of 2007. On the 14th of that month, over 200 descendants of Moses Mendelssohn gathered at the cemetery on Schönhauser Allee to pay their respects at the restored graves of Joseph, Henriette, Alexander, and Marianne Mendelssohn.