Posts Tagged ‘holocaust victims’

Berlin’s Stolpersteine

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Stolpersteine, often translated as “stumbling blocks”, are small, cobble-sized memorial stones that protrude from the pavement. The last time I visited my hometown of Berlin, I noticed that two such stones were embedded in the pavement in front of the building in which I once lived. The upper surface of each Stolperstein was fitted with a brass plate. The plate was engraved with an individual’s name, year of birth and death, and a few words about the person. I had never seen stones like these before and inquired about their meaning. To my surprise, there are thousands of them, and they are the work of one man.

Stolpersteine for the Danziger Familie - Berlin Charlottenburg, Suarezstrasse and Kuno-Fischer-Strasse, photo J. Elke Ertle © 2014

Stolpersteine for the Danziger Familie – Berlin Charlottenburg, Suarezstrasse and Kuno-Fischer-Strasse, photo J. Elke Ertle © 2014

Stolperstein Concept

The Berlin-born sculptor, Gunter Demnig, is said to have first conceived of the idea of creating Stolpersteine when he met a women near his Cologne studio. He said she was unaware that gypsies had once lived in the neighborhood. Demnig conjectured that concentration camp victims, who are frequently identified by numbers only, tend to lose their individuality as a result. To restore that identify he considered creating memorial stones with the victims’ names and identifying information. That was in the early 1990s. Since then, he has created many Stolpersteine to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. The vast majority of his stones commemorate Jewish Holocaust victims. But many are also dedicated to gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Blacks, military deserters, physically and mentally disabled individuals, and to those who opposed the Nazi party.

Stolperstein Locations

By May 1996, Demnig had laid the first 50 Stolpersteine in Berlin. Since then he has put down over 5,000 memorial stones in the city and more than 38,000 in over 800 cities and municipalities in Germany. In addition, he has installed memorial stones in twelve other European countries www.stolpersteine-berlin.de.

Critics

Not everyone approves of Demnig’s concept. Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, has objected to Stolpersteine because of their installation in the pavement where people walk. It feels like people are walking on the names of the dead, she says. http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/opfer-des-ns-terrors-neue-diskussion-ueber-die-stolpersteine-1.677117

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.