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‘Death can’t be turned off’ : ‘Chilling’ effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on Germans

‘You can’t turn off death,’ says the chairman of Germany’s cremation consortium, Svend-Joerk Sobolewski. The Russia-Ukraine war has caused numerous global crises, including inflation, supply chain disruption, and food security. However, a new issue has emerged in Germany.

With the threat of Russian gas supply cuts hanging over their heads, Germans are now concerned about what will happen to their dead. Businesses, including crematoriums, are developing contingency plans to deal with rising gas prices and the possibility that it will be unavailable altogether. As tensions between Russia and Europe rise due to Western sanctions, Germany is on high alert for a possible supply cutoff by Russia’s state gas giant Gazprom.

Svend-Joerk Sobolewski told Reuters that if rationing occurs, the industry should be prioritised because most crematoriums require gas to function. Death, he said, cannot be turned off. People in Germany typically prefer to be cremated when they die, which could be a problem if Russia cuts off gas supplies.

According to German undertakers’ association statistics, approximately three-quarters of the approximately one million people who die in Germany each year are cremated. That is a high rate when compared to other European countries, said Stephan Neuser, executive director of Germany’s cremation consortium, in an interview with Reuters.

He claimed that the practise stemmed from the nearly universal practise 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. Switching from gas to electricity may be an option in the long run, according to Neuser, but it will take time.


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