‘You can’t switch off death’: The ‘chilling’ effect of Russia-Ukraine war on Germany’s dead

“You cannot switch off death,” says Germany’s cremation consortium chairman, Svend-Joerk Sobolewski. The Russia-Ukraine war has given rise to many crises around the world; inflation, supply chain, and food security. But now, in Germany, another problem has come to light. With the sword of Russian gas supplies being cut off hanging over their heads, Germans now worry: What would happen to their dead? Businesses, including crematoriums, are creating backup plans to deal with the rising prices of gas and the possibility that it won’t be available at all.

As tensions between Russia and Europe get heightened over western sanctions, the whole of Germany is on alert for a possible cut-off of supply by Russian state gas giant Gazprom.

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Taking to Reuters, Svend-Joerk Sobolewski said that in the case of any rationing, the industry should be prioritised because most crematoriums require gas to operate.

Death cannot be turned off, he remarked.

In Germany, people typically prefer to be cremated when they die, which might pose an issue if Russia was to shut off the gas supplies. 

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According to statistics from the German undertakers’ association, about three-quarters of the approximately one million persons who pass away each year in Germany are cremated.

That is a high rate when compared to other European nations, said Stephan Neuser, Germany’s cremation consortium’s executive director while talking to Reuters.

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He claimed that the practice had roots in the practically universal practice of cremation in former East Germany and has persisted as a result of relocating families, an ageing population, and a preference for urns over unmaintained graves.

In the long run, switching from gas to electricity might be an option, but Neuser claimed that would take time.

(With inputs from agencies)

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