Suicide victims turned away from a Catholic burial, bodies with no names fished out of the Danube. That’s who lies resting in this hard-to-find cemetery.
The cemetery was originally opened in 1840 and subsequently, following repeated floodings and the construction of a dyke, expanded in 1900. In 1935, a small, modernist graveyard chapel (built by architect Karl Franz Eder) encompassed by rosebushes was built on top of a hill between the two parts of the cemetery. While the older part lies abandoned these days behind the embankment, overgrown by bushes and trees, the new section is surrounded by a small wall and has been taken care of by the family of Josef Fuchs since 1933.
Up until 1900, 478 unidentified people were buried at the cemetery, many of whom drowned in the Danube or committed suicide, thus denied a Christian burial by the Catholic church in Vienna’s Central Cemetery, Zentralfriedhof. The new part of the cemetery is the last resting place for another 104 dead, 61 of whom remained unidentified and most of whom the river’s current brought ashore nearby due to the junction of river and canal.
The last nameless body was buried here in 1940. As the municipality of Albern was incorporated into Vienna in 1938, all unknown dead since have been buried in the Central Cemetery. In addition, due to the 1939 construction and expansion of the Alberner Hafen, an industrial harbor, the currents in the Danube have changed; its waters no longer swirling debris of any kind ashore, its victims no longer given up so easily.
Most of the graves are adorned by black crosses made of cast iron, each featuring a silvery crucifix. Following tradition, each year on All Saints’ Day local fishermen honor the unknown dead in a small ceremony by floating a raft on the Danube, remembering the dead by a commemorative inscription in German, Hungarian and Slovak.
Located in Simmering at the Alberner Hafen, at the junction of Danube and the Donaukanal (Danube Canal), the cemetery is quite difficult to find, an unexpected gem hidden behind an industrial estate and two staggeringly huge grain elevators.