Luisenst. Canal Gardens
Nat. Reserve Schöneberg
|Kleist's grave is hidden by a narrow wooded strip, bordered and somewhat restricted by the neighbouring rowing clubs at Nos. 2 and 4 Bismarckstrasse. The sloping site, extended to 4000 square metres in 1970, is half parkland and half uncultivated with some dramatic features. A path, lined with yew trees, leads to the grave which is on a small hill halfway between the road and the lake. It is suprisingly modest, - no bust, medallion portrait or anything of that sort. Only an iron railing, open to the front, the tombstone with the name of the poet and dates of his birth and death, a beautiful tall oak tree and occasionally floral tributes. The lines of the regional writer, Max Ring, were originally on the gravestone. "Er lebte,
sang und litt/ (He lived, sang and suffered) in trüber schwerer Zeit/ (in gloomy and difficult times) er suchte hier den Tod/ (he sought death here) und fand Unsterblichkeit/ (and found immortality) Matt.6 verse 12." These were replaced in 1941 by Kleist's verse from the Prince of Homburg: "Nun, O Unsterblichkeit, Bist Du Ganz Mein." (Now, Immortality, you belong to me.) One reaches the water of the Kleine Wannsee by means of a steep winding flight of steps. Nearby there used to be a popular watering hole and meeting place for Berlin artists, where about two hundred years ago, Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel spent the last hours of their lives writing letters, drinking tea and wine. A few years after their suicide in November 1811, one of the younger Brothers Grimm who was a great admirer of Kleist, reported that a circle of 20 poplar trees surrounded both graves. The trees, however, were almost completely withered and he replaced them with new ones. There is also talk of pine branches which, according to local custom, were laid on the graves and of a sturdy young oak tree, which grew between them. Henriette Vogel's grave disappeared soon after and has been ignored ever since. Her last letter to her husband sounds like a premonition when she writes "..trenne Kleist ja nicht von mir im Tode." (Do not separate Kleist and me when we are dead.)
A period of neglect, when the graves were grown over, was succeeded by repeated attempts to give the poet a worthy memorial site. The railings, tombstones and inscriptions were changed. Even today, the grave is still a restless place. In 1889, Theodor Fontane described how Kleist's grave, since the opening of the train line to Wannsee, had become a much visited pilgrimage site. In 1936, one of the many renovations took place in time for the Olympic Games, " for the grave, which is mentioned in all the travel guides, will be sought out by numerous foreign visitors". In the 1950's and 1960's, the date of birth was corrected twice, the tombstone was turned round and the railing moved away from the path. In 1980, the first indication of Kleist's companion was installed, several hundred metres from his grave, at the beginning of Bismarckstrasse. In spite of the bustle, it is noticeable that something of the seclusion and beauty of the place where Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel chose to die, is retained in the grove at the Kleine Wannsee.