Lonely funeral: Burying Amsterdam’s anonymous dead

Unidentified baby’s grave 2016 (© NOS)

With the anonymity of urban life in a globalised world, we hear every day of people who have died alone and unidentified. In Amsterdam, there are about 20 such cases every year, and each person is given a funeral, albeit a very lonely one. They are rich and poor, Dutch and foreign, drug addicts, homeless men and women, old and young, even babies. They are found in the street, canals,  boats and old buildings.

Michele Ernsting spoke with retired municipal employee Ger Fritz who decided to copy a project in the northern Dutch city of Groningen where every person since 1990 has been given a dignified burial with flowers and music. He was then joined by the late Frank Starik, a poet who wrote a few lines for each of these forgotten unknown. Together they created a municipal ritual that continues to this day. Producer Michele Ernsting speaks with both men at grave sites in Amsterdam.

Producer: Michele Ernsting

Broadcast: February 13, 2008

The programme won a gold medal at the New York Radio Festivals in 2010.

It also garnered the Best Documentary: Honourable Mention Award in the 2010 Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.