• Germany's news in English
20 years of remembering the Holocaust on German streets
Stolpersteine. Photo: DPA

20 years of remembering the Holocaust on German streets

The Local · 3 May 2016, 15:29

Published: 03 May 2016 15:29 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Who are they for?

Stolpersteine - literally stumbling blocks - are commonly associated with Jewish victims of the Nazi regime - but they are in fact for all the victims of the Holocaust.

Roma, homosexuals, black people, communists and socialists, and other opponents of the Nazis are commemorated through the small brass plaques.

Why did the project start?

Gunter Demnig, a German artist born two years after the end of the war, came up with the idea for the Stolpersteine. Quoting the Talmud, Demnig says on the official website that “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten”.

The project is thus an attempt to ensure that the Nazis were unsuccessful in their attempt to eradicate their victims from history.

Demnig officially laid the first stones in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, although he had already laid some without permission a year earlier in Cologne.

How do they work?

A Stolperstein from Budapest, Hungary. Photo: DPA

Each block is set into the street in front of the last known address of the person before they were killed. It contains the person's name, birth date, death date, and how they died or fled their home, for example being sent to and murdered at Auschwitz.

How big has the project grown?

There are currently Stolpersteine in around 1,000 German municipalities.

But the project has long since spread beyond the borders of the Bundesrepublik. The plaques can now be found in the streets of cities in Austria, Hungary,  the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Norway and Ukraine.

There are some 58,500 across Europe - still a tiny fraction of the roughly 6 million victims of the Holocaust.

Why do I never see any in Munich?

Munich remains stubbornly out of step with the rest of Germany on Stolpersteine. Not a single one can be found on the southern city’s streets - despite the fact that at least 4,500 of the city's Jews died in the genocide.

But, it is not because the city’s authorities are embarrassed about discussing their past. The head of the Jewish community in the Bavarian capital has put the brakes on the project.

Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria (IKG), herself a Holocaust survivor, has described Stolpersteine as “dishonorable and impious”.

Her anger stems from the fact that people stand on the plaques. Munich is therefore developing columns as an alternative form of commemoration.

Story continues below…

Demnig has personally laid over 55,000

At the end of March, Demnig laid a Stolperstein for Bela Feldheim in Valentinskamp, Hamburg. It was the city's 5,000th.

Feldheim was a baby when she was murdered by the Nazis because of her Jewish heritage.

Demnig, himself, has laid 95-98 percent of all the Stolpersteine in Europe.

Gunter Demnig lays a Stolperstein for Bela Feldheim in Hamburg. Photo: PBela Feldheim. DPA

Correction: This article originally stated that Demnig had laid 5,000 Stolperstein, rather than the over 55,000 he has laid.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Munich to get 'nice toilets' to serve cross-legged locals
Photo: DPA

The Bavarian capital has a pee problem - the city only has one public toilet for every 13,000 inhabitants. But a new plan could rescue desperate locals, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

German kids get glowing report for their English skills
Photo: DPA.

As if multilingual Germans don't already put many English-speakers to shame, now the younger generation is improving their English skills even more.

Berlin museum controversially recreates Hitler bunker
The reconstruction of the Hitler bunker. Photo: DPA

Sensationalized or compelling history? Berlin museums clash over new Nazi bunker exhibit

Germans think they're fit, but they're really couch potatoes
Photo: DPA.

There's been an increase in the number of Germans who define themselves as "fit", but their lifestyle choices don't quite match this self-perception.

10 fascinating facts you never knew about German beer
Tennis coach Boris Becker and his wife Lilly at Oktoberfest 2016 in Munich. Photo: DPA

From malt and monks to Radlers and rivalries, the story of German beer is as rich and wonderful as its selection.

Intensive farming 'endangers a third of German species'
Photo: DPA

There are 32,000 species of animal, plant and mushroom life native to Germany. Due to intensive farming methods, one in every three of these is endangered, a new report shows.

German hospital uses therapy to 'treat' paedophiles
A poster from the campaigne "Don't offend", which offers therapy to paedophiles. The sign reads "Do you love kids more than you'd prefer? There's help." Photo: DB Scholz & Friends / DPA.

A unique German initiative is offering therapy to paedophiles to control their urges, with the aim of getting them help before they offend.

Minister: 'no tolerance' for clowns after chainsaw attack
Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for a zero-tolerance approach to 'killer clowns' after a series of attacks culminating in two teenagers being chased by a clown wielding a chainsaw.

Baby who was auctioned on eBay taken away from father
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd