Germans are sending their family remains to Switzerland

Germans are sending their family remains to Switzerland

The families of recently deceased people in Germany are increasingly sending their loved ones’ to Switzerland to get around some burial-law red tape.

German cremations in Switzerland now six times more common

In many countries, when you loved one passes away, it is common to keep their ashes or scatter them on their favourite beach or mountain. In Germany however, a 200-year-old law prevents inhabitants from being able to realise such desires for their family or friends.

While urns and ashes are usually buried by cemetery workers after the body is cremated, allowing no opportunity for the family to keep the remains, in Switzerland, more relaxed rules allow families to do what they wish. Now, more and more Germans are hopping across the border to ensure that ceremonies can be more personalised.

The trend is thanks to the German Friedhofszwang law, which restricts cremated people’s remains to being buried in a cemetery. The law was first introduced to curb the spread of diseases, and while some German states have modified the rules, keeping an urn on the mantelpiece, or anywhere at home, is still generally forbidden.

German urns are returning from Switzerland

Speaking to Swiss broadcaster SRF, funeral home owner Berto Biaggi explained that his business, which lies just 10 minutes from the German border, has now cremated six times as many German people as they did 10 years previously. 

And it’s not just those in the southern states, Biaggi is now also receiving requests from the bereaved in northern Germany. After the remains have been cremated, Biaggi gives the urn back to the family with a rose, but he doesn’t ask any questions about what their plans are for interment.

“What the relatives do with the urn is beyond my knowledge. I’m not there when they bury it in Switzerland,” Biaggi told SRF - though many are of course likely to take the ashes back home to Germany. While ashes should be customs cleared between European borders, German authorities have said that they will not stop people from bringing the cremated remains of their relatives back to the federal republic.

Thumb image credit: Little Adventures /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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