Intangible Cultural Asset

At the suggestion of the German UNESCO Commission, cemetery culture in Germany has been included in the national list of “Intangible Cultural Assets” by the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs on 13 March 2020. The Commission thus recognises cemetery culture in Germany as a visible, ever-evolving expression of Germany’s culture of remembrance – as history books of the country, its towns and villages.

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This is a precondition for a possible global listing, which can be decided separately in another application. However, the national listing also stands for itself, so that the entry is already a valuable goal that has been achieved.

The Association sees the high recognition of cemetery culture in Germany above all as an appreciation of the work of thousands of contributors and feels duty bound to rigorously continue its successful work.

What were the steps?

On the fringes of Stone+tech in May 2015, the Association discussed whether it was not time to illuminate the importance and appreciation, but also the endangerment of cemeteries in Germany in an overall cultural context and commissioned its then director and journalist Tobias Pehle from Unna with the implementation.

At his suggestion, an application was submitted to the German UNESCO Commission for inclusion in the national list of “Intangible Cultural Assets”.

The Association financed the conception, application amendments and two external expert opinions. In addition, a business address in Hamburg was required, as the application needed the support of both a federal state and a cemetery operator.

The application convinced other institutions and interest groups active in the field of cemetery culture to join and thus contribute to the success.


The steps to apply can be found, in particular, in the following newsletter from T. Pehle to the VfG in December 2016.

Dear colleagues,

A formative and successful year for the Association comes to an end with good news: The UNESCO application for the inclusion of German cemetery culture in the list of Intangible Cultural Assets is well on its way to being accepted. (…)

With this newsletter I would like to thank you, also on behalf of the Board, for your trust and support this year. At the same time, we wish you a happy and reflective Christmas and a good start to the coming year.

With kind regards

Tobias Pehle

Association for the Culture of Remembrance

Fine-tuning the application

German cemetery culture still on the way to UNESCO heritage status


The application for the inclusion of German cemetery culture on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Assets, initiated and organised by the Association, continues on its successful course. The Chairman of the Expert Committee on Intangible Cultural Assets at the German UNESCO Commission, Prof. Dr. Christoph Wulf, as well as the Secretary General of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Federal States in the Federal Republic of Germany, Udo Michallik, thanked us for our participation in the application. They further wrote: “The “cemetery culture” of Germany comprises manifold lines of tradition: craftsmanship, urban planning, emotional, local and overall social elements”. This “bundle of traditions” is “open and general”. So it is now necessary to refine the application by April 2017. For this purpose, we will work closely with our application partners, but above all with Prof. Norbert Fischer.

The letter from UNESCO and KMK represents another important step towards success on the path to inclusion. The expert panel is obviously fundamentally positive about our application – otherwise they would have already rejected it. A final decision on inclusion is expected in autumn next year.

In March 2017, further information was provided on the current status of the UNESCO application.

Hello everyone,

The new application for the UNESCO application is in principle ready (see attachment). It will now be checked and corrected by Prof. Fischer and UNESCO. After that a final version will be sent to the other associations.

The timetable is as follows:

by 10.3. completion by Prof. Fischer

in the week from 13 to 17, final coordination with UNESCO personnel in Berlin
20.3 completed application goes to the stakeholders

30.3 Official submission to UNESCO

I would be happy if some of you could find time to read the application and comment.



Tobias Pehle

Verband für GEDENKKULTUR e.V.