Working on a chapter about different kind of burial sites, I came across ‘a cemetery for the insane’ in Rekum, Belgium. A burial site that belonged to the close-by psychiatric hospital, then called ‘Rijkskrankzinnigengesticht’ (Public Insane asylum). The cemetery was founded in 1921 and until 1981 about 1750 male patients were buried here. In those days patients were institutionalized for life with little or no contact with relatives.
The cemetery is situated in a forest with six open areas where the graves are lined up in order of burial. The graves are marked by simple concrete crosses with small plates holding the name and dates of birth and death. Some exceptions were a few wrought iron crosses and couple of grave stones. For the years of WWII crosses are missing completely – the field is empty for one cross dating back to 1945.
What struck me most were the death rates in the 1950’s. The dates on the crosses showed that every few days someone died. Death must have been all-present at the institution. The uniformity of the graves – highly emphasized by the presence of a few different headstones – leaves quite an impression. Although there are individual names on the graves, it somehow feels like a dumping place. Overall it felt as a rather sad place…
Currently the site is part of a pilot project for natural burying.
Photos are taken in Rekem, Belgium. 27 August 2016.