LOVE, PEACE, BLESSINGS…? THE STORY OF THE STOLPERSTEINE
Each day, when I walk along the sidewalks of the city in which I live, I am vividly reminded of the atrocities that are a part of European history. When I walk out of my apartment and up the streets I am confronted by the Holocaust. I see the names on small bronze plaques in the sidewalks in front of the homes from where the people were rounded up and taken away. These are small monuments to victims of the Holocaust. They are called in German, Stolpersteine, roughly translated as “stumble stones.” Written on them are their names, their date of birth, their fate (where they were sent) and their date of death. Some tried to flee and were killed in the attempt. That is noted. A few, a very few managed to escape and survive. Many of the names are those of children. Children who remain forever children. The Germans try very hard to always keep the memory alive about the atrocities that were committed here, now that the older generations are dying off and the young people have little idea of what really went down, the hope being that something like this will never happen again.
During the war bombs fell on the apartment buildings next to mine and across the street. My building was damaged and burned. It was gutted and the interior completely rebuilt after the war. I have been told that my apartment was part of a National Socialist Party office during the war. Those memories, like the generations who lived through the horrors of World War II, now have faded away. I know though that some of the walls in my apartment are the original ones. Were they able to talk I am not so sure I’d like listening to their stories.
In the upper portion of the photo are three Stolpersteine that I pass Saturday evenings when I go to my favourite Italian restaurant. These were three young people who fled Germany to Poland and Holland, but were later incarcerated and murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Benni, Mary and Rosi lived a few doors down from a building on the corner that had the inscription (shaded in the bottom half of the photo) “Liebe, Friede, Segen” (Love, Peace, Blessings) upon its walls. These young people experienced very little love, peace or blessings from the Nazis in their short lives…
In the upper half of the photo are the three Stolpersteine that I pass when I go to my favourite Italian restaurant. The inscription (shaded in the bottom half of the photo) “Liebe, Friede, Segen” (Love, Peace, Blessings) is on the walls of a building a few yards down the street from where the three young people lived. The photos were taken in December 2012.
Here is a passage of text from Wikipedia that explains a bit more about the Stolpersteine:
“This constant reminder of the Holocaust comes in the form of small monuments called “Stolpersteine.” There are thousands of Stolperstein memorials located in cities and towns in Germany. A Stolperstein (from German, “stumbling block”; plural Stolpersteine) is a monument created by Gunter Demnig which commemorates a victim of the Holocaust. Stolpersteine are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for an individual victim of Nazism. They commemorate individuals – both those who died and survivors – who were consigned by the Nazis to prisons, euthanasia facilities, sterilization clinics, concentration camps, and extermination camps, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide.
While the vast majority of stolpersteine commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, others have been placed for Sinti and Romani people (also called gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, black people, Christians (both Protestants and Catholics) opposed to the Nazis, members of the Communist Party and the Resistance, military deserters, and the physically and mentally disabled. The list of places that have stolpersteine now extends to several countries and hundreds of cities and towns.”
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