|Mother, star, and husband at Berlin Zoologischer Garten Station|
While scapegoating the Rivas has become de rigeur among the Dietrich fan community, we must remember that Josefine had an older daughter, Elisabeth, who bore a son, Hans Georg Will. According to this son's account in the book, A Woman at War: Marlene Dietrich Remembered, he had Frau von Losch's headstone renovated either around the time of the book's publication [2006?] or around the time of documentary Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song's production [2001?] to recognize her as a mother and grandmother. Hans Georg also stated that he had a son named Axel. I understand that Hans Georg passed away in 2013, but the whereabouts of Axel and the offspring he may have had remain unknown to me. If you contend that this is a family matter, let's not forget the Wills because they are as much Josefine's kin as the Rivas. As for the Rivas, the de facto family spokesperson, Peter Riva, had already addressed the topic of Josefine's grave months earlier on the official Marlene Dietrich Facebook page:
Kind people, especially Timothy Rooks, have asked why we are letting the mother of Marlene's grave subside. The truth is, the tradition is to allow the passage of time to melt the contents with the earth, in a most environmental way. 17 years was the initial period and for decades we kept the grave of her mother intact so as to mark the place Marlene might, indeed, one day also buried. Berlin is a tight city, tight because it is crowded. It is right for people to allow others to have their place when it comes to their time. Our only hope is that the cemetery folks will allow Josephine to rest in peace, clean up her grave site and welcome the next family to cherish their loved one's memory as we, and Marlene, did Josephine's. I first saw it in 1966, took photos for Marlene and she was touched how peaceful the cemetery remained - and still does.One commenter there argued that space is not an issue at the Städtischer Friedhof III in Berlin, where Frau von Losch is buried nearby her famous daughter, and another suggested that fans offer their financial support, to which Peter reiterated that relinquishing the grave was Frau von Losch's wish. Personally, I know nothing about Lutheran burial traditions, but I respect the Riva family's personal decision. Nevertheless, Josefine died half a decade before Peter was even born, which--in conjunction with Hans Georg's efforts to preserve her grave after Marlene's death--casts a shadow of doubt on his knowledge of Josefine's intentions. That being said, the burden is not on the Rivas to preserve every aspect of Marlene's life, and if we want to see certain aspects remain, the onus is on us, which is why I admire the fan-sponsored effort to preserve Josefine's grave.
According to Silke Ronneburg, the donations will be used to extend the lease of Josefine von Losch's grave for an additional 20 years, as well as to preserve the plot and plant on it according to Marlene's wishes that it be plain and simple like a soldier's grave, as stated in documents at the MDCB. During her lifetime, Marlene made an agreement with the cemetery to have her mother's grave replanted semiannually in the style of an "Efeuhügel Grab" ["ivy-mound grave"]. In 1985, Marlene renewed the lease to her mother's grave with the support of friends in Germany and Switzerland. If the required funds are raised to keep Josefine's grave intact now, the lease will remain with the family, but efforts to make Josefine's grave an honorary one are underway, as Ronneburg asserts that Josefine's final resting place is of historical significance in Berlin.
As the mother of a world-famous celebrity, is Josefine von Losch noteworthy enough for us to continue commemorating her--that is, if we ever did at all? Similarly, the Virgin Mary has been venerated for millennia, but does it suffice that she was the mother of Christ, or was she someone extraordinary in her own right? I'd be curious to read your perspectives on this. If you have offered your financial support to the initiative or wish to do so, what are your reasons? If you wouldn't contribute to this effort, I'd also love to read why.