The gravesite of Richard König Senior.
The gravesite of Richard König Senior.

How I found grave of man I was named after in rural Germany

I NEVER met my paternal grandfather, nor did I know much about him.

Growing up, I knew he had died while my father was young and that he was a successful German filmmaker who had his own production company. He also shared the same name as my dad and me.

Born in Berlin in August 1900, Richard König Senior founded his own film company after World War II and later married my grandmother Edith Mill in Munich, an Austrian actress who he had worked with on several films.

She was 27 and he was 52.

 

Edith Mill and Richard Koenig on their wedding day in March, 1953.
Edith Mill and Richard Koenig on their wedding day in March, 1953.

The pair settled down in a small village called Grünwald in Bavaria, and less than a year later in November 1953, my father Richard König Junior was born.

But in 1961, Richard König Senior had a stroke and died when my father was just seven years old.

His mother later moved to start a new life in Vancouver, Canada, when my father was nearly 15.

It was there about 10 years later that he met my mother Raelene, however that's a different story.

 

My father with his Dad in 1954.
My father with his Dad in 1954.

It wasn't until mid-last year when I was planning a trip to Europe that I started digging a bit more into my grandfather's history.

Years earlier, I had told myself I would one day visit his grave, but had put that goal to the side until the right time arrived.

Browsing online, I discovered he had his own Wikipedia page, although in German, I was able to easily translate it into English using Google.

It was then I made a challenge to myself that I would visit his grave on my trip to Europe, which according to Wikipedia, was located in a forest cemetery in Grünwald, Bayern.

I arrived in a freezing London in November 2018, where I met with my friend Leigh before we travelled to the Netherlands and then Munich.

Luckily for me, Leigh was well travelled, so following an address I had on Google Maps was manageable, however still a bit of a struggle due to the language barrier.

Shortly after, we were on an hour-long bus-ride to Grünwald, which involved multiple changes and confusing conversations with bus drivers, who weren't quite sure why we wanted to visit such a small area.

As we left the main part of Munich, the scenery turned from modern buildings into winding roads with beautiful forests and small villages with old architecture.

It was like taking a step back in time.

I imagined Dad growing up in such an area, and while I had never experienced it myself, I felt a sense of familiarity.

When we finally got off the bus at the cemetery, there was no one else in sight and it was as if we were the only ones in a remote part of Germany.

As we walked through the gates into the cemetery, we realised the daunting task we had ahead.

The cemetery was picturesque, located in a forest with hundreds, if not thousands of gravesites.

 

The cemetery in Grunwald.
The cemetery in Grunwald. Rick Koenig

Finding my grandfather's grave with only his name, date of birth and death, was not going to be an easy experience.

I could tell from the look on my friend's face that he expected a long day of searching, and even I thought we would be lucky if we found the site at all.

But after about 15 minutes of walking along gravesites, skimming each name as I went past, I found it.

It was a gravesite which stood out from the rest, made from a wooden monument with a beautiful engraving carved into it.

 

Richard Koenig Senior's gravesite
Richard Koenig Senior's gravesite

When I called out that I'd found it, my friend was almost in disbelief and had to check the dates to ensure I was correct.

It was there and then, when I saw my name on a grave that likely hadn't been visited in decades, that I felt an emotion I still can't quite describe, but it was one I had never felt before, it was a feeling of something special.

All three Richard Königs had now been to the same place in Germany, completing a circle and goal I had wanted to achieve for a long time.

I cleaned up the front of the grave, which had a pot of dead flowers and leaves which had been there for what looked like forever, before I lit a candle and placed it in front of the grave.

I stood there and had a moment of silence, admiring the site and thinking about the life my grandfather had lived.

I then phoned my parents to tell them I had found the grave, who were unsurprisingly excited as they had no idea of my plans to go there.

The only photo they had of the grave was taken in the 1960s and of poor quality, so the high-resolution photos I sent to them from my phone was like seeing the site for the first time.

 

The only picture my parents had of the gravesite before I visited. The photo was taken in the 1960s.
The only picture my parents had of the gravesite before I visited. The photo was taken in the 1960s.

I left the cemetery with a feeling of wholesomeness and content, and sat in silence on the bus back as we drove through Grünwald, imagining my father growing up there.

When we returned to the city, the sun had gone down and the temperature had plummeted.

Rugged up, we explored Munich's Christmas night markets, which were lit up with colourful lights and featured the sounds of classical Christmas music.

 

Christmas markets in Munich
Christmas markets in Munich

After some shopping, we went to the famous Hofbräuhaus and enjoyed a stein of traditional German beer to celebrate our achievement.

Later that night I reflected on what we had done that day.

Using just the internet, I was able to locate and visit my grandfather's grave on the other side of the world, fulfilling a goal that was years in the making.

 

Myself at the Hofbräuhaus in November, 2018.
Myself at the Hofbräuhaus in November, 2018.

 

My father at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, 1988.
My father at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, 1988.

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