The Story of Herbert Marcuse’s Ashes
by Harold Marcuse, Dec. 2002, updated July 2003, Apr. 2005
Herbert died suddenly of
a stroke while on a visit to West Germany in 1979 (see picture
page). He was cremated in
Ricky (Herbert's third wife) hadn't yet decided what to do with the ashes, so they remained at that funeral home. Peter didn't immediately realize that Ricky's premature death in 1988 meant he was now responsible for the ashes. The senior partner in Peter's former law firm, who had arranged for the funeral home to receive the ashes, died a few years later as well, before Peter learned the name of the funeral home.
None of us really thought about the ashes' whereabouts, until in November 2001 a reader of this website asked about them (see first message below). Peter had to make some phone calls to find out exactly where they had been sent. In 2002 they were moved to my parents' home in Waterbury. That is the story of their "rediscovery."
Just as an aside: some family members couldn't resist taking a look inside the "urn" (actually a cardboard box). Human ash is granular (not flakey), and a lot of staples are mixed in. (Presumably the wooden coffin was stapled together.)
NOTE: Cremating Herbert in Austria instead of Germany makes no logical sense. Once Austria had been annexed by Hitler in March 1938 (known as the Anschluss), most Austrians behaved like 120% Nazis. Disproportionately many Austrians (from Hitler himself on down) were involved in key roles in the genocide of the Jews. [back to top]
December 2001 e-mail asking
about their whereabouts:
Harold answered this initial inquiry shortly thereafter:
Harold cc'd his answer to Peter, who confirmed this a few days later:
Harold gave it some thought in an e-mail to Peter on December 20/21, 2001:
On December 22, 2002 Peter
If we did do a cemetery, Dorotheenstadt would be the most appealing: somewhere between Hegel and Brecht, both his good friends. I wonder how one gets in there? I suppose we could find out...
Actually, I don't know what funeral parlor in New Haven, and John Weisman, now deceased, is the one that put them there. Also could presumably be traced somehow, given the time and interest...
January 22, 2002 e-mail from Peter Marcuse to several family members
Peter's daughter Irene
Marcuse-Silver (website) responded
on Jan. 23, 2002:
Harold Marcuse responded
on January 24, 2002:
On January 25, 2002 Peter
On January 30, Peter announced:
At this point, Harold intiated a discussion in the website guestbook:
Harold sent an e-mail to various people who had corresponded with him via e-mail about this website, requesting that they post their opinions in the guestbook. I also posted a request for opinions in the "announcements" section of the web site.
January 31, 2002 03:19AM
January 31, 2002 06:08AM
January 31, 2002 08:19AM
Name: andrew feenberg [professor in San Diego, colleague and student of Herbert's]
Comments: Thank you for creating this wonderful page. I do not think Herbert would have liked public discussion of his ashes.
February 2, 2002 07:39AM
February 2, 2002 11:20PM
February 4, 2002
February 7, 2002
February 8, 2002
February 10, 2002 08:51AM
February 10, 2002 08:11PM
February 12, 2002
February 13, 2002
February 14, 2002 8:17AM
February 14, 2002 1:49PM
Name: Peter Marcuse
Comments: Will be very interested in comments on the ashes question -- as well as others
On February 14, 2002 Peter
also e-mailed Harold:
I'm pretty clear on 2, and
some of the comments [in the website guestbook, see above]
suggest it too: a beautiful place in nature that he loved, and that would
be first and foremost Torrey Pines. Absent 1., that's what I would do.
On February 22, 2002
On March 4, 2002 a friend
in Berlin e-mailed Peter (who was already in Berlin):
Peter forwarded this to
Harold, who responded that day:
The cemetery offered Peter
Meanwhile, readers were still responding in the guestbook (and on e-mail):
From: Howard Winant
Dear Harold Marcuse,
February 25, 2002
March 2, 2002
March 2, 2002
At this point Harold took down the request for opinions on the final resting place, and replaced it with a request for suggestions for what might be written on the headstone.
March 24, 2002
May 3, 2002
May 18, 2002
February 25, 2003
|On November 1, 2002 Peter wrote to Harold:
My recollection is you were going to slightly reformulate the request to Thomas Flierl for an Ehren [honorary] designation for Herbert's ashes at the Dorotheenfriedhof, I think just reviewing the little synopsis you did when we first wrote to the Friedhof?
I'd like to do it while the PDS [left-wing party] still has the slot in the [Berlin] Senate!
In December 2002
|In Spring 2003 the Berlin Senate approved the honorary grave designation,
and approached the philosophy department at the Free University about organizing
a conference at the site of Herbert's monumental 1967 and 1968 lectures
at that Berlin university.
The interment (burial) was scheduled for Friday, July 18, 2003, the day before what would have been Herbert's 105th birthday. (Cemetery personnel don't work on Saturdays.)
From: Peter Marcuse <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, February 13, 2003
The City (actually, the Land) of Berlin is about to approve the designation of Herbert's grave as an Honorary Grave of the Land Berlin.
That means not only that they'll pay all maintenance costs in the future, but that the normal rule of the cemetery, that destroys a grave after some set number of years (maybe 75?) will not be in effect. It's cleared all the discretionary hurdles, and simply has to be affirmed at a full meeting of the Senate.
I'm pleased. I think they owed it to the old man. Peter
From: Peter Marcuse <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date-Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2003
This is the letter I'm sending to everyone on the list [of personal invitees].
We would like to invite you to join us when we bring my father's ashes to Berlin for burial at the Dorotheenstäditscher Friedhof on July 18, 2003.
When my father died, in Starnberg in 1979, we had a very small ceremony of mourning with only a few friends standing in a circle in the woods.
His body was cremated and flown to a funeral home in the U.S. It sat there for many years; my father was not sentimental about such things; he knew that the ashes were neither the person nor the spirit. Harold has since put up a very informative web site on my father. A few years ago someone raised the question of where he was buried, and we began thinking something more than an urn in a funeral parlor might be appropriate. We debated, and decided Berlin was the appropriate resting place for the urn. We've now gotten a grave site at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin, and we will bring the ashes there with a small ceremony on the 105th anniversary of his birth this summer. The Berlin Senate may designate the grave as an honorary gravesite of Berlin's. We think that's appropriate, that his birthplace, in the country that disowned him, should now honor him on "his" return.
Our plans are simple, and still subject to change in details. We want to do the interment (Bestattung) in the early afternoon of Friday, July 18 (his birthday is actually July 19, but that's a Saturday, and would create problems for the cemetery personnel). Our family, who will be coming from the U.S. and England for the occasion, will probably go the the KZ Sachsenhausen the day before, and to the new Jewish Museum and possibly site of the Luxemburg/Liebknecht monument that morning.
Others might wish to join us. But in any event we then want to have a small ceremony as we bring the urn to the cemetery. Then we all want to repair to the Brecht Haus, which is immediately adjacent, for some type of remembrance program. We are loose as to what it should be: we want both to remember him as a person - everyone we are sending this to knew him personally or had a direct connection to him or his work - and we want to reflect on what his life and work means in today's world. We do NOT want speeches or lectures, but hope for an informal sharing of thoughts and feelings. (For my own part, I want to reread several things Herbert wrote about death, which I've never actually explored, but I
think my own comments would be more personal.) Conceivably we might talk about organizing a formal Marcuse conference for the following year.
The Brecht Haus has a lovely outside garden under spreading chestnut trees that might be available to us; it also has the Brecht Keller, a restaurant, and we're seeing if we all might then adjourn there for supper.
We are undecided as to whether we want to give the event publicity. Our thinking is that we clearly do not want an open affair, but want to limit it to those who knew and cared for Herbert and what he stood for. But perhaps, if there were interest, we would not object if a journalist attended, on the theory that it might have something of a political resonance, and might also be good publicity for the volumes of his Nachlass which are now coming out both in German and in English, We're attaching a list of those we're inviting; if we have by oversight neglected someone who should be welcome, please do let us know. And if you have any comments or suggestions on the proceedings, we'd be glad to hear from you too.
Let us know if you can come.
Subject: [Fwd: Ehrenbestattung Herbert Marcuse]
Date-Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 8:40 AM -0500
"G. Gebauer" wrote:
> Sehr geehrter Herr [Peter] Marcuse,
> von unserem Wissenschaftssenator bin ich ueber die Absicht
> informiert worden, am 19. Juli ein Ehrengrab für Ihren Herrn
> Vater einzuweihen. Ich bin ueber diese Initiative sehr gluecklich,
> denn ich gehoere zu der Generation, auf die Herbert Marcuse
> einen grossen Einfluss gehabt hat. Seine Schriften gehoeren zu
> den aufregenden Momenten meines Studentenlebens, und als er
> seinen grossen Vortrag an der Freien Universitaet gehalten hat,
> gehoerte ich zu den Anwesenden. Ich bin sehr geehrt darueber,
> dass mich das Praesidium der Freien Universitaet mit der
> Veranstaltung zu Ehren Ihres Vaters beauftragt hat. Der Planung
> dieser Veranstaltung dient mein Schreiben.
> Wir planen aus Anlass der Einweihung des Ehrengrabes eine
> Veranstaltung, auf der in Vortraegen und Diskussionen das Werk
> von Herbert Marcuse aus heutiger Sicht gewuerdigt werden soll.
> Ich wuerde gern zwei Gruppen von Philosophen oder Wissenschaftlern
> einladen: zum einen Persoenlichkeiten, die sich in den 60er Jahren
> fuer eine Rezeption Marcuses in Europa eingesetzt haben, zum
> anderen juengere Persoenlichkeiten, die in der letzten Zeit das
> Werk kommentiert und neu eingeschaetzt haben. Sehr gern wuerde
> ich auch auf Ihre Wuensche eingehen: Gibt es Autoren, die Sie
> fuer einen Vortrag oder einen Diskussionsbeitrag empfehlen
> moechten? Haben Sie selbst bestimmte Wuensche zur Organisation
> der Veranstaltung selbst, z.B. was die Themenwahl oder die Art
> und Weise der Wuerdigung betrifft? Und schliesslich: Moechten
> Sie selbst zu den Anwesenden sprechen?
> Es wird spaeter sicher noch weitere Fragen geben, die ich an Sie
> richten werde. Aber zunaechst einmal waere ich Ihnen dankbar,
> wenn Sie mir Ihre Ansichten zu meinen Fragen mitteilen wuerden.
> Mit den besten Gruessen
> Gunter Gebauer
> (Geschaeftsfuehrender Direktor des Instituts fuer Philosophie
> der Freien Universitaet Berlin)
[note 10/11/04: I will be making a July 2003 Berlin Conference Page]
After the burial (see the newspaper reports in the Ashes Articles page) there was some more feedback in the guestbook:
July 19, 2003 01:04AM
July 19, 2003, 3:58AM