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Marlene Dietrich buried in Berlin amidst tear and controversy

By LEON MANGASARIAN

BERLIN -- Marlene Dietrich was buried Saturday in a simple, solemn ceremony attended by tearful Berliners who welcomed the screen goddess home to her final resting place, just over a mile from the house where she was born.

Authorities had feared there might be disturbances by right-wing extremists, but there were none. Dietrich, who had refused to work in Nazi Germany, was regarded as traitor by some Germans.

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About 50 mourners, including Dietrich's daughter, Maria Riva, attended the ceremony at a cemetery in Berlin's affluent Friedenau district.

Riva, 68, wearing dark glasses, stood composed and silent while while a pastor read the 23rd and 31st psalms.

Dietrich's friend, actor Maximilian Schell, read the poem 'Love as long as you can' by Ferdinand Freilgrath. Riva blew a kiss to Dietrich's grave.

Dietrich had requested to be buried in Berlin next to her mother, who died in 1945.

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The funeral service, shown live on national television, was in German, although most of the family members present did not speak German.

Earlier, hundreds of Berliners, some throwing flowers, lined the route taken by the black Cadillac hearse which carried Dietrich's coffin to cemetery.

Few international stars came to the funeral. Some observers said Dietrich, who was 90 when she died May 6, had outlived most of her generation of stars.

At the request of the family, the public and reporters were not allowed to enter the cemetery until after the funeral.

'She was a great artist. I'm deeply moved she chose to came back here,' said Robert Vogel, a Berlin doctor who wept while signing a condolence book at the cemetery.

'I have every single one of her records at home,' he added with a smile.

Dietrich was born in 1901 in a communist working class district known as the 'Red Island,', just over a mile from the cemetery where she was buried.

Her film career began in Berlin with the film 'The Blue Angel,' which launched her to fame and was followed by a string of successful films made in Holloywood during the 1930s.

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The funeral touched off controversy in Berlin.

'Marlene's grave spat on,' proclaimed the banner headline on Saturday's front page of The BZ newspaper, Berlin's biggest selling daily tabloid.

Dietrich still is regarded as a traitor by some Germans because she left Germany in 1930 for Hollywood and became an American citizen in 1939.

She reportedly refused requests to return by Nazi leaders who promised she would be given a triumphal parade through the Brandenburg Gate if she came hiome.

Instead, she made anti-Nazi radio broadcasts in German from 1943 to 1945.

Her only concert tour of Germany in 1960 had to be cancelled after bomb threats and a protest by angry Germans who unfurled a banner that read 'Marlene Go Home' at her Berlin concert.

Letters from readers criticizing the Dietrich funeral were printed in the BZ during the past week.

'She lived in overseas in luxury while Germany was in poverty,' said one letter.

Another writer said that since Dietrich earned her money in America she should have been buried in the United States.

The funeral also brought Berlin's Christian Democratic-led coalition government into controversy.

City officials cancelled a planned ceremony with 600 invited guests in honor of Dietrich with the official explanation that too few international stars were attending the funeral.

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The cancellation outraged many Dietrich fans. Berlin's Christian Democratic mayor, Eberhard Diepgen, was jeered by crowds waiting outside the cemetery where the funeral was held.

The cancellation was politically motivated, said the left of center daily Die Tageszeitung.

'The Senate cancelled the 'Adieu Marlene' celebration ... for fear of extreme right-wing parties gaining votes in the distict elections on May 24,' the newspaper said.

The city held a scaled-down reception for Dietrich's family after the funeral in the old Prussian armory on Berlin's historic Unter den Linden boulevard.

After the funeral hundreds of Berliners filed past Dietrich's grave, piled high with flowers.

One funeral wreath read:'Angels do not die.'

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