Art project Stolpersteine: Europe's biggest Holocaust Memorial

The liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp happened over seven decades ago. Lest we forget: Six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. 

Two golden stumbling stones in memory of deported and murdered Jews.
Left: Here lived Georg Baumgarten, born 1892. Deported 1943. Murdered in Auschwitz.  Right: Here lived Martha Baumgarten, nee Kiwi, born 1892. Deported 1943. Murdered in Auschwitz 

In several towns in Europe, you find the art project Stolpersteine, and in English, they would be called stumbling stones. There are now almost 70,000 Stolpersteine in 21 European countries. Plaques are installed, at the entrance of the homes from where Jews and dissidents were deported to prisons or concentration camps during the rule of the National Socialists. One stone for each murdered person, for each victim. Together all these plaques form the biggest memorial of its kind. Each stone reminds us of the senseless murder of each individual.

Ever since the artist Gunter Demnig came up with the idea and started to install the plaques, there was also criticism coming from members of the Jewish community in Germany. Some believe this project to be inappropriate, since they feel pedestrians would simply walk over the victims’ names, and that their names were covered in dust and dirt.

Stumbling stones - Stolpersteine

Whenever I stumble upon these stones, and that happens all the time, there are sadly too many in my neighbourhood, I remember the murdered person. It is so hard to grasp why they had to die, why they were murdered. Why were they deported, it happened for no sane reason really, just out of pure hate.

The stumbling stones mirror the harsh reality of the crimes against humanity that happened in Germany. I don't want to forget the victims. The stones give each victim a face. I imagine how they just got back from grocery shopping, from work, from singing lessons or from wherever and out of a sudden someone came and picked them up to murder them. 

Two golden stumbling stones in the pavement of a white period property with a red-brown entrance door.
Two stumbling stones in the pavement. The house where Ms and Mr Baumgarten lived

Stolpersteine. What can we take away from this?

What would you do if someone would talk badly about people just because they have a different skin colour, sexual orientation or religion? Do you stand against prejudice and intolerance? What did Martin Luther King Jr. say? Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. At the time his ideology was considered moral in Germany. Learn from history and use every single bit you know for decision making. Don't be a bystander.

When you travel to Germany you will find a lot of information about WWII. Here you can read where in Berlin you find eight Memorials and museums that teach about the National Socialist Dictatorship in Germany.

Can’t wait to hear from you.

From Berlin with love