"The costly aversion of the eyes from death–", Philip Larkin called it. Not in Germany. A popular children’s books over here is a German translation of a Swedish book called "The Best Funerals in the World," (G) in which a team of three children provide funerals for dead animals they come across. One of them shovels up a grave, one writes a "poem by the gravesite," and one sheds appropriate tears.
Today on the local radio call-in show (G) the subject was again death — a woman from Hesse wants to have her father’s ashes transported to Switzerland and compressed into a diamond. The dead man’s mother objected, and a court in Wiesbaden upheld the objection. Under German law in most states, unconventional burials are either forbidden or strictly regulated. Everyone must be either cremated or buried in a coffin, in an actual grave in a conventional cemetery. Although they can choose to be buried anonymously if they wish.
The guest during the call-in show was "Gerold Eppler, Kunstpädagoge, Stellvertretender Direktor Sepulkralmuseum Kassel (G)" I haven’t any idea how to translate Kunstpädagoge except literally — someone trained in the pedagogy of art. The "Sepulchral Museum" has, let me assure you, just been added to my next in-Germany tourist itinerary.
During the ensuing discussion with Mr. Eppler, most of the people who called in were in favor of liberalizing Germany’s burial laws. One aggrieved-sounding fellow even claimed they were a desperate measure by the Catholic Church to preserve its relevancy by means of government monopoly. Nevertheless, liberalization continues apace. The state I live in, Northern-Rhine Westphalia, for instance, got rid of the Sargzwang four years ago. Adding Zwang (compulsion; something mandatory) the the end of any word in German connotes lack of choice, so Sargzwang is "casket-compulsion" — the requirement that everyone be buried inside some sort of coffin.
Many nature-lovers wanted to be buried in a Friedwald — a forest (Wald) that serves as natural cemetery (Friedhof). You scatter your loved one’s ashes at the base of a tree, and they are reunited with nature during the coming decades. The first one of these was opened in my state in 2004 (G), and had 250 reservations before it had even opened it doors.