Have you heard of the Stolpersteine Project? Stolpersteine translates to stumbling stone. It is a project that was first conceived by artist Gunter Demnig in Cologne, Germany, in 1992. The goal of this project is to remember the victims of the Holocaust by installing small brass stones on the sidewalk near the victims last known, freely chosen address. Each hand carved stone begins with the words “Here lived”, followed by the name, date of birth and fate of the victim. There are more than 70,000 of these memorial stones in Europe, Russia and South America.
My family was recently contacted via Facebook by those involved in the Stolpersteine Project in my grandmother’s home town of Villmar, Germany. As a school project, a young woman did research on my grandmother’s family and was seeking information and permission to lay stumbling stones on the walk outside my grandmother’s childhood home. The community had raised the money needed to install the stones, one for each member of the family.
This project is not without controversy as some believe it is degrading to put names on the ground. Others feel these small tributes are uniquely personal. My view is positive. It is touching to know that a stranger on another continent took the time and effort to remember a family she never knew. I also want to believe that, as long as the stones are there, people walking by will stop, even for an instant, and remember the tragedy that once happened and have a name to put with history.
My grandmother never spoke about her early life; it was too painful. We learned from this project that her former home was turned over to the Nazis and was used by the Hitler youth and the Gestapo. I don’t know if grandma ever knew this, but I am certain it would have been deeply painful if she had.
Most Jewish people feel a personal connection to the Holocaust. It is not every day that connection becomes tangible. I am grateful to know there are people in this world that care and I take comfort that my lovely grandmother will not be forgotten. If you want to learn more about the Stolpersteine Project, you can visit them on the web at www.stolpersteine.eu/en/.