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Category: History

481. cementerio alemán

Cementerio Alemán, entrance, Juan Kronfuss

The Cementerio Alemán opened along with its neighbor, the British Cemetery, in 1892. German Protestants had the same difficulty as other non-Catholic immigrant groups in finding a suitable place for burials. Hungarian architect Juan Kronfuss designed the entrance in 1926, & the chapel contains extraordinary stained glass windows from Franz Mayer in Munich. The greenery & perfectly manicured plots make for a nice break from the hectic vibe of Chacarita.

Cementerio Alemán, chapel

Cementerio Alemán, chapel

One of its most famous graves belongs to Capt. Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff, commander of the armored vessel Admiral Graf Spee. Damaged in the 1939 Battle of the River Plate off the coast of Montevideo, Langsdorff scuttled the ship & his crew were taken prisoner. Transferred to Buenos Aires, Langsdorff committed suicide two days later. Some of the crew passed away—waiting out the end of the war in either Argentina or Uruguay—& are also buried here.

Cementerio Alemán, Graf Spee crew

Cementerio Alemán, Capt Hans Langdorff

Cementerio Alemán, Graf Spee crew

The crew of the Graf Spee are not the only Nazis interred there. Rodolfo Freude formed part of Perón’s secret service & is thought to have been one of the organizers behind ODESSA. He died in 2003, & the full story of bringing Nazis & Nazi wealth into Argentina may have died with him.

Other notable figures: Swimmer Jeanette Campbell was the first Argentine to win an Olympic medal… ironically at the 1936 Berlin games. Photographer Annemarie Heinrich took some of the most well-known portraits of celebrities & politicians, including my favorite images of Tita Merello & Eva Perón:

Eva Perón by Annemarie Heinrich

Tita Merello by Annemarie Heinrich

Architect Carlos (Karl) Nordmann designed the Legislature of the city of La Plata, along with its museum & other fine works throughout the country.

Legislatura, La Plata, Carlos Nordmann

La Plata, museo, Karl Nordmann

Alexander Asboth, a Hungarian immigrant to the USA, commanded Union troops during the Civil War. He later became US ambassador to Argentina & Uruguay, dying in Buenos Aires. Asboth was initially buried in the Cementerio Alemán, but his remains were transferred to Arlington National Cemetery in 1990. The original tombstone can be found by the entrance:

Cementerio Alemán, Alexander Asboth

A few other pics… there are some fantastic works of art, mostly near the entrance:

Cementerio Alemán, Familie Müller

Cementerio Alemán

Cementerio Alemán, World War monument

Although sharing the same gigantic plot of land as Chacarita Cemetery, walls separate the Cementerio Alemán from Chacarita. The only entrance is along Avenida El Cano, near the intersection of Avenida del Campo.

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Other Buenos Aires cemeteries: Cementerio del SurChacaritaSan José de FloresCementerio de los Disidentes Cementerio BritánicoCementerio Alemán

Photo of the Legislatura in La Plata by Marcelo Metayer.

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479. historic photo 8

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, entrance gate, Samuel Boote, 1885

Photo taken by Samuel Boote, circa 1885, & part of the Colección Carlos Sánchez Idiart. The entrance gate had just been remodeled by Juan Antonio Buschiazzo four years earlier, so it looks practically new in this photograph. Grottos were all the rage in late 19th century Buenos Aires, so naturally Recoleta had a few for rest & relaxation. A gem of a photo.

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467. cementerio británico

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

The Cementerio Británico opened in 1892 after the Cementerio Victoria filled to capacity & local residents requested its relocation. The cemetery’s current look dates from the 1930s & 1940s, designed by the architecture firm of Conder, Follett & Farmer… probably best known for the main train station in Retiro. The British fondness for brick is visible at the modern entrance gate, certainly the least decorative in Buenos Aires. The chapel also follows the same lines:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

In general, the cemetery has a decent amount of greenery, quite a few trees & is well-maintained. Most graves are decorated with simple tombstones, but large crosses & obelisks are common as well:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Military memorials are found along the wall to left of the entrance gate, just behind the chapel. John Thorne, an American naval officer who fought for Argentina during its early days, is buried there along with several fallen from both World Wars:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

As the major non-Catholic cemetery for several decades, many Armenians are buried here as well as immigrants from other nations. Members of the Jewish community have also been buried in this cemetery:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Unique to Buenos Aires is the Familia Gorkin plot… unsure why they chose the Asian theme:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Not surprisingly, important religious figures from the non-Catholic community are buried here. Two of the more elaborate graves belong to Reverend James William Fleming of St. Andrews Scots Presbyterian Church & Willam Patterson McLaughlin, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church from 1892 to 1921. McLaughlin’s relief is similar in iconography to that of Atilio Massone but signed by Chambers y Thomas… best known for the fabulous First National Bank of Boston building on Diagonal Norte:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Of historical interest are the many monuments & tombstones brought from the Cementerio Victoria before it became a public park in 1925. Tombstones are affixed in rows along the rear wall (right of the entrance). Several contain references to early railroad companies of Buenos Aires, a good number have Hebrew inscriptions & some are very solemn:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

And while there may not be as many sculptures as in Recoleta Cemetery, the few present are wonderful works of art:

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

This is one of the most peaceful cemeteries in Buenos Aires & is definitely worth an early morning stroll. Although sharing the same gigantic plot of land as Chacarita Cemetery, walls separate the Cementerio Británico from Chacarita. The only entrance is along Avenida El Cano, near the intersection of Avenida del Campo.

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Other Buenos Aires cemeteries: Cementerio del SurChacaritaSan José de FloresCementerio de los Disidentes Cementerio BritánicoCementerio Alemán

Spanish speakers can find out many more details about the Cementerio Británico on Eduardo Kesting’s thoroughly researched website.

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458. cementerio de los disidentes

Buenos Aires, Cementerio de los Disidentes, Plaza 1º de Mayo

As the importance of trade made Buenos Aires grow, foreign merchants from around the world arrived. So did foreign ministers who recognized the new nation. But many of these new arrivals were not Catholic & therefore could not be buried inside local churches.

One year prior to the opening of Recoleta Cemetery, Governor Martín Rodríguez granted permission for non-Catholics—disidentes—to share a common burial ground. Their first cemetery was located on Calle Juncal, next to the Iglesia del Socorro in Retiro. With only 178 plots, it quickly filled to capacity & was closed in 1833. Nothing remains of this cemetery… a high-rise hotel occupies the spot today (#1 on the map above).

The Rosas government gave the non-Catholic community permission to acquire another piece of land, & the Cementerio Victoria opened in 1833 (#2 on the map above). Occupying almost an entire city block in Once, it was divided by nationality & religion into sections: British, German, American & Jewish. In 1892—59 years after opening—the lot had filled to capacity & the disidentes were on the move again.

Buenos Aires, Cementerio de los Disidentes, Plaza 1º de Mayo

Remember that Chacarita Cemetery opened in 1871 due to a yellow fever outbreak. Since the land set aside was so large, a portion was allocated for non-Catholics with the idea that remains from the Cementerio Victoria would be transferred to the new location in Chacarita. In the end, some funerary monuments & tombstones were moved but most of the remains stayed in Once.

By 1919, the city government wanted to acquire the abandoned cemetery & convert it into a public space. Burials 1.5 m deep did not have to be transferred, provided that their families relinquished all rights to claim their ancestors. By 1924, 457 transfers were registered & the following year Buenos Aires obtained a new park: Plaza 1º de Mayo.

In 2006 during a refit of the plaza, work crews found remains of the former cemetery. Archaeologists arrived & began a thorough investigation of one sector. Besides uncovering a complete skeleton, they also uncovered many personal effects, marble tombstones & crosses. All items were cataloged & several put on display at the Cementerio Británico in Chacarita. Photos below are from 2006 during the dig:

Buenos Aires, Plaza 1º de Mayo, Cementerio de los Disidentes

Buenos Aires, Plaza 1º de Mayo, Cementerio de los Disidentes

The city government under Mauricio Macri has currently abandoned many of the plazas reformed just a few years earlier. Plaza 1º de Mayo happens to be one of the worst cases in the city. Gravel for walkways has not been replaced & grass has disappeared once again… as if nothing had ever been done. Despite its poor condition, at least the excavated area has been gated off & protected. It is the only green area in the plaza these days:

Buenos Aires, Plaza 1º de Mayo, Cementerio de los Disidentes

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Other Buenos Aires cemeteries: Cementerio del SurChacaritaSan José de FloresCementerio de los Disidentes • Cementerio BritánicoCementerio Alemán

Archival photo taken by Esteban Gonnet, circa 1865. Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Wallach Collection. Full text of the findings by archaeologists can be found here (in Spanish).

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455. historic photo 7

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, historic photo, Witcomb

Photo #358 from the Colección Witcomb, date unknown. This capture shows the same perspective as another historic photo but much later… judging from the increasingly urban character of Buenos Aires visible towards Calle Azcuénaga in the background.

Update (10 Apr 2013): Something always bothered me about this photo. The single landmark I could find for orientation is facing the wrong way. How can that be? And the height from which the photo was taken means the photographer shot from the bell tower of the Iglesia del Pilar… there’s absolutely no other possibility, past or present.

Remembering that original images were from glass plate negatives, perhaps flipping the image horizontally in Photoshop would fix things. It did; everything fell into place. Below is how the image should look:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Colección Witcomb

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445. historic photo 6

Recoleta Cemetery, H.G. Olds, historic photo

Harry Grant Olds (1869-1943) was one of the most successful early photographers of Buenos Aires, coming to Argentina in 1900 after a brief stint in Valparaiso, Chile. This photo was taken in 1900 in the northwest corner of Recoleta Cemetery. Of note are the large mausoleum for the Familia del Carril, the monument to federal judge Virgilio M. Tedín &—although blending into the trees a bit—the memorial to Luis Viale.

Source: postcard sale on Mercado Libre… a great online source for finding old photographs. More incredible photos by Olds can be found in a collection titled “H.G. Olds, Fotografías 1900-1943, Un norteamericano retrata la Argentina (Ediciones de la Antorcha, 2011).

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