Achtung! Stumbling stone! {Stolpersteine} pt.1

IMG_1436 “A person is only forgotten, if his name is forgotten.”

{Gunter Demnig, Artist -Stolpersteine Project }

Have you heard about ‘Stolpersteine’?

Neither did I.

The other day,  my ever-charming husband and I were talking about random things about Germany, and then he mentioned it. For a minute I asked him, ‘can you spell that for me?’ He sent me a link in English (of course!) then my mind travels and marvels on  this interesting project. He said I could write about it but I replied : ” I cannot write for something I do not know, seen or experienced.”

To tell you frankly, I don’t know anything much about Germany , Nazi and Holocaust either. I mean, I am from the Far East, on the other side of the planetI know Germany is nice,beautiful country with great cars & sausages that’s it. My knowledge about WW II’s aftermath is not as wide as the concentration camps and astounding stats of the victims. What has been taught to us in school ( from what I remembered ) is the battles with Japanese & Americans, and the Battle of Corregidor. The ones lingered in my mind is Pearl Harbor, Douglas  MacArthur & Japanese invasion but NO- Never I have heard of Holocaust.

I’ve watched the films ( and I loved them) The Pianist & Schindler’s List but I never imagined that travelling could allow me to gain knowledge about what happened in the past along with my eagerness to learn about German culture & History now as part of integration. When I told my mother that we are moving to Germany, she clumsily retorted – ‘ Hitler,  Germans are cruel-or bad people! ‘ Same with the comments I’ve got from my friends. They don’t know anything either. Please excuse this ignorance. I couldn’t blame them. I was once like this and these events happened long before I was born.

You see, when you begin to learn something about what happened in the past and relate it to the present then your mind is being opened. You begin to understand. As a tourist  you don’t dig deep on those inscriptions in the monuments or memorials. From a short trip you only bring home photographs. But History is a great thing.

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Stolperstein –A person is only forgotten -if his name is forgotten.

But  from what I have observed here, it’s not publicly talked about, nobody wants to open old wounds. Even the mention of “He who must not be named and talked about ” is not something you talk over a cup of tea or beer. Stolpersteine let me understand more the symbolic way of learning about the dark past of Germany & Holocaust victims. From zero knowledge of the Jews and National Socialism, I began to understand.

‘Stolpersteine’ ( stumbling stone in English)  are literally stones, plaques, or blocks–whatever you may call it but it’s mainly a Holocaust memorial stones laid across Europe. They are special stumbling stones. The English translation is relative of course since it’s basically laid on the ground and in the place where the victim’s last home. Laid along a path with busy traffic of people walking around, to ‘stumbled on’. I find it interesting that the artist thought of these stones as depicting the victims of Holocaust were humans-with names ( and not just a number in the stats) who once walked the same paths were the stones were laid . Same path I was walking now.This is by far the largest decentralized memorial project in the world!

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Stumbling blocks nothing special on the outside. Gunter Demnig says: You are not Forgotten unless your name is forgotten. So true.

These 4 inch² brass plaques indicates Holocaust victim’s name, date of birth, date of arrest, camp(s) deported to and fate. The Stolpersteine project began in 1996 as a symbolic art project by German Gunter Demnig. Although this project is to commemorate all Holocaust victims, most of the Stolpersteine are dedicated to Jews. Since then it had grown to around 50,000 Stolpersteine have been placed across Europe, from Norway to Italy,and from The Netherlands to Ukraine.
Gunter Demnig has always been aware that it will never be possible to lay  Stolpersteine for the millions of victims of the Nazis – thus his project remains symbolic.
Each Stolperstein is made and laid by hand. Michael Friedrichs-Friedländer makes and embossed some 450 Stolpersteine a month . The artist,Gunter Demnig travels across Germany and Europe and  personally lays them.

Today, I was out  doing some errands and I decided to take my daughter to the nearby ‘Trampoline’ in Paradeplatz  opposite of the New Castle ( Neues Schloss ) .We’ve been here numerous times since she loved it there. From the time we decided to head back home, my daughter’s pacifier fell on the ground and while I was about to pick it up, I stared at the cobbled stone ground that I was standing on and shrieked in surprise. Stolspersteine!

I’ve found one.

I saw one of the Stolpersteine. In Ingolstadt. In Paradepltz 5.

There are more  “stumbling blocks” in Ingolstadt. This was initiated by history teacher Dr. Fritz Schaffer with 14 students of Christoph Scheiner-Gymnasium. You can found our trail for finding the 5 Stolpersteine in Ingolstadt Here.

Do you live in Europe?  Do you want to search and see for yourself the Stolspersteine? You can check this Timetable for places you can find them.

Maybe it’s just in the streets  where you pass every day. I know in The Netherlands , there are special tours for viewing all the Stolpersteine  in Amsterdam. You can check it while you visit Anne Frank’s house in Merwedeplein 37 . I would definitely look for this If I visited Amsterdam again.

Tell me, how can you say you’ve not forgotten someone if you can’t even remember his or her name?

Thank you for reading my friends, If you have your own quest stories like this please feel free to share it in comments .


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4 thoughts on “Achtung! Stumbling stone! {Stolpersteine} pt.1

  1. I actually have never seen Stolpersteine outside of Germany. I remember when I was in High school (either in East Germany or the one here in my hometown) that we collected money for these stones.
    In fact we even got one of these Stolpersteine right in front of our apartment block (it used to be a huge villa before owned originally by a rich jewish trading family but was torn down in the 1970s due to the damages through the bombings of the war).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t know the name but when I began to read I recognised the blocks. It’s a wonderful idea, isn’t it? 🙂 It must have been so hard for Germany to put the Holocaust behind them but when you see what they have achieved today…. and they are at the forefront of reaching out to immigrants. It’s not an easy world, is it? We just need a little more love.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My thoughts exactly. I am an immigrant myself here..well, on the process 🙂 But just like you, I am quite impressed how they have learned from the past and doing lots of correct things nowadays.No wonder they are in the forefront in most everything. Thanks Johanna, your comment is greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

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