Monday, 7 July 2008


group of stolpersteineMy entry for 19th June was about street signs and furniture in my neighbourhood. This entry continues the theme, but is more reflective.

I walk a lot here. It is very easy to get around on foot and April enjoys having a look around. On my many wanderings I have passed sets of little square brass plaques set in pavements. I often wondered what these were, but never really looked. Recently a friend explained their real purpose.

The plaques are called 'stolpersteine', which literally means 'stumbling stones', though the name is intended to describe the fact that they are designed to encourage us to pause and contemplate rather than trip up. They are the project of the Cologne artist Gunter Demnig and are designed as memorials to all those deported by the Nazis - Jews, the mentally or physically disabled, those opposed to the Nazi regime, Romany and Sinti people and homosexuals.

detail of plaqueEach stone - a four inch square of brass - represents one person. The stone is set outside the home from which the person was taken. Each stone is inscribed with the words 'Here lived', then the name and date when the individual was taken and date of death, if known. This photo shows a memorial to one Viktoria Herz (Victoria Heart).

According to Wikipedia, by October 2007 Demnig had placed more than 13,000 Stolpersteine in more than 280 cities around Europe. It is a life's work and he is still going. Although he initially donated 600 stolpersteine to the city of Cologne, he now works through sponsorship, creating and laying each piece for a nominal fee. He can never hope to lay memorials to all those who were affected, but if his work makes us stop and think about individual victims, then it has served its purpose.

More about the project and locations...

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