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?