Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Stolperstein: History on the Pavement


I remember the first time I saw a Stolperstein, or "Stumble Stone" during my first trip to Berlin. As my German friend led me around the city on a chilly tour of the sights, he stopped in front of this small brass square and explained its significance. A sober reminder of dark days in human history.




Stolperstein is the name given to these small memorials to victims of the Holocaust. While most of them commemorate Jewish victims, they can really be for anyone victimized by the Nazis-gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, etc. Though most of the stones record the person's date and place of death, we did see a few that noted they survived the Holocaust. Some had only question marks after the name.

I find these memorials interesting because they are usually placed outside the victim's home or place of business. You imagine the person living an everyday life, coming and going from the very building in front of you, before their lives were torn apart. I always wonder what they were like, what they enjoyed or looked like. The scarce details on the Stolperstein leaves you with more questions that answers-maybe that's the point?



This street had quite a few. You can see the stones glinting in the sunlight.

The stumble stones have been controversial and some cities have declined to use them-some Jewish groups have claimed they are disrespectful. Berlin, however, has many. As you walk down the streets sometimes you can find a whole street full of them. To me, it's a painful but necessary reminder of something that must never happen again. It's easy to forget the past when you can't imagine the actual victims involved. But when I see a Stolperstein and stop to wonder about that victim and their life, they are remembered. And we do not forget.



If you'd like to find out more, you can read about them here.

Have you ever noticed Stolperstein? What's your reaction?


6 comments :

  1. I've not heard of these before - so thank you for sharing. As a history teacher it was always hard for me to teach WW2 (and plenty of other events) because I didn't want to gloss over it, but it's a hard truth to face. As you say, painful but necessary.

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    1. I know what you mean. It's a hard subject to broach but a necessary one. If we don't know our history we're doomed to repeat it.

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  2. Wow, that is incredible. I actually have an uncle that believes- or is just stubborn- and says that the Holocaust never happened. I can't even begin to describe how afraid that makes me- that if enough people think like he does, what could happen in the future? It's a painful reminder, but a needed one.
    xx

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    1. So true. History is always repeating itself-if we can recognize the pattern we can put a stop to it. I can't even imagine not believing the Holocaust happened. I grew up with stories of WWII from my Dutch relatives. Many of them were in concentration camps or fought with the Resistance, so it has always been very personal and real to me.

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  3. The fact that they are scattered about the city, in front of the victims' homes and businesses instead of all put together in one place makes them that much powerful. They're a constant reminder of something we should never forget.

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  4. These are so interesting. I rarely see people actually stop and read them, but that may be because they've read them before. It makes it so real though, that even in the smallest towns, or fairly isolated and picturesque ones like Marburg, Jews were found and murdered. It 's hard to look at such a pretty and very normal place and believe what actually happened, that peoples lives changed on those doorsteps.

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