History · Travel

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Stolpersteine

January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the ending of the Holocaust. And the beginning of the remembering.

I gave some thought to posting today. It’s a weighty topic. I  felt compelled to post something, to acknowledge the day and create a little space to reflect. This is a travel & lifestyle blog, I’m not a historian and I don’t want to go too deep. So, I thought I’d keep it quite light and personal and revisit something that has become an ingrained part of my travels around Europe; The Stolpersteine Project.

I didn’t hear about Stolpersteine, or ‘stumbling stones’, until we were posted to Germany . Perfectly understandable, and actually something to be proud of in the sense that you will not find these small brass plaques anywhere in the UK. Why ? Because each one commemorates an individual persecuted or killed by the Nazi regime.

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A Stolperstein is a four inch square brass plate set in the ground. Each represents on person. One name, one stolpersteine. The aim of the project is to commemorate individuals. The Nazi regime employed mass extermination, reduced people to numbers and wanted to erase them. The laying of  a ‘stumbling stone’ seeks to create the opposite effect and create an act of remembrance around an individual name.

The Stolpersteine is an ongoing project created by German Artist Gunter Demnig. Inspired by an idea from the Talmud that, ‘A person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten’, the original plaques were designed as part of a one off exhibition. The original idea was so well received by relatives of Holocaust victims that the idea grew and today you will find Stolpersteine in twenty four European countries and in at least 1200 locations across Germany.

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Do these unobtrusive squares scattered across the streets of Europe really work? I think so. You spot them, you stop. Read the name, consider the dates. Think about the person… who they were, how they lived, what were their passions?. I can visit a memorial and be reminded of dates and historical events. I have stood in front of a pile of suitcases at Auschwitz and felt overwhelmed, but it’s  difficult to draw out of that  recognition for an individual. The stolpersteine quietly call on you to remember just one person. And that packs quite a punch.

There is so much more to this project than I can possibly do justice to in a blog post but you’ll find a wealth of information on the Stolpersteine homepage.

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