There’s a grave by the lake where Heinrich von Kleist committed suicide. An audio guide helps you relive the drama.
In late autumn 1811, the German dramatist, lyricist and author Heinrich von Kleist took a walk with his good friend Henriette Vogel to a hill at the edge of the forest by the lake called Kleiner Wannsee. They sat down at a garden table and politely drank coffee, wine and rum. At around 4 in the afternoon, the poet took two pistols out of a picnic basket and first shot his companion and then himself. A dramatic exit in the most literal sense.
Money worries and a lack of appreciation for his works had driven Kleist to desperation and thoughts of suicide. Henriette Vogel had terminal cancer and decided that they should die together. Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel were buried together a few days later at the place where they died. You can still visit the grave today.
The grave of Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel
When you make your way along Bismarckstraße towards the grave, you first pass a number of villas and the venerable clubhouses of Berlin’s oldest rowing clubs. Between houses number two and four, a narrow path leads down to the Kleiner Wannsee. There, among a thicket of maple and oak trees, is a clearing with the simple grave. Its original inscription (“He lived, sang and suffered / in gloomy and difficult times, / he sought death here, / and found immortality” - Matthew 6:12) was removed by the Nazis, who replaced it with “Now, immortality, you belong to me.“
As part of the Kleist commemorations in 2011, the grave was renovated and new information panels were put up. As well as this, Henriette Vogel’s details were carved into the gravestone and the old inscription was restored.
An audio memorial to Kleist
If you want to find out more about what happened on 21 November 1811 at the Kleiner Wannsee, you will find an audio memorial to Kleist there. In his audio drama, the director Paul Plamper asks what happened that day and how much we know of it today. Kitted out with an audio player and headphones, you can discover the background story to the suicide of Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel.
For €3, you can hire the audio guides from the souvenir and gift truck at the jetty by Wannsee S-Bahn station (April to October from 10.30 to 14:30).