Giving the victims their names back and ensuring that they are never forgotten – the stolpersteine in Berlin recall the victims of the Shoah.
Once the name is forgotten, then so is the person – that’s what the Talmud says. To stop this from happening, in 1996 the artist Gunter Demnig brought a project to the pavements of Oranienstraße and Dresdener Straße which he had started in Cologne and which still continues today. Demnig installed – at the time, illegally – 51 of what he called stolpersteine (“stumbling stones”) among the cobblestones to commemorate the victims of the Shoah who lived in those streets.
Stolpersteine – an art project for Europe.
Since then, Demnig and fellow artists have laid countless stumbling stones in Germany and other countries in Europe. Each one is ten centimetres square and made of polished brass. The inscriptions begin “Here lived ...”, followed by the name and year of birth of the former resident, and then the name of a concentration camp, such as Auschwitz or Theresienstadt. Right at the bottom is the date of death. The artists make the objects by hand, and they are financed by private donations. The decision not to mass-produce them is intentional.
Originally intended for victims of the Shoah, the project has since been extended to commemorate homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, those vilified and persecuted as “antisocial elements”, and people who took part in the resistance. The stones give the victims their names back and thus help make the atrocities committed in Germany’s name more visible.
At the same time, they show the exclusion, dispossession, persecution and imprisonment that took in the middle of the city in full view of their neighbours. The art project thus contradicts the often-heard excuse that no-one knew what was really going on.
Stolpersteine all around Berlin
In Berlin the stones can be found outside many house entrances and driveways, commemorating the fates of people who lived in those houses. You suddenly realise that an entire family was exterminated when you stumble across six, seven or more stones outside a building. The stones constantly force you to stop and think.
A list of the stones laid in Berlin can be found on the project’s website.
Projects in Berlin
Each of Berlin’s 12 Boroughs runs a project to research the backgrounds and fates of the victims, to lay new stones and to take care of the brass plates.
Information for schools
The coordinators of the stolperstein project in Berlin offer support for various educational projects for schools, and provide accompanying material.