When I arrived in Germany in 2006, I took note of these small bronze plaques which were set into the pavement. I believe the first one was directly outside the front door to my work. If you take the time to stop and look, you’ll find that each tile has words on it. A name followed by some information; birth date, death date, location of death and perhaps the circumstances. These are Stolperstein (Stumblestones), they show the last known residence of the victims of the Holocaust. They are the work of German artist Gunter Demning. Started in 1993, this project seeks to observe the victims of the Nazi regime and hundreds, perhaps thousands of Stolperstein can be found all cross former Nazi Occupied Europe.
Around the middle of the 16th century the Elector/Prince of Brandenburg, Berlin at the time, had a horse path connecting his residence to his royal hunting grounds in what is today the Tiergarten (Animal Garden). Unter den Linden (Under the Limes) got its name in 1647 when Elector Frederick William lined the avenue with lime trees. Since then Unter den Linden has become one of Berlin’s greatest attractions. In the past it was home to a royal residence, military buildings and arsenals. Later large churches, opera houses, national libraries and a university were added. In more modern times, Unter den Linden was a government district, where you could find all of the most important embassies in the world. Today, the avenue, which runs on an east-west axis through the middle of the city starts at Alexanderplatz and goes all the way through to the Brandenburg Gate. Here you can find some of Germany’s most recognizable landmarks as well as enough History to fill many pages. Not surprisingly, during the Second World War, Unter der Linden was the spot for parades, demonstrations as well as the target of bombs and some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle for Berlin. Continue reading “Berlin Now and Then-Part One: Unter den Linden”
Stolperstein Part-Two: Arrested
Coming from the US, we tend to think of the Holocaust primarily in terms of concentration camps. I know I did. These Stolperstein show another side. I’ve found these Stolpestein where the the victims died at the hands of those who were meant to protect them. They could have been targeted for any number of reasons.
Verhaftet is ‘arrested’. Poleziegefangnis means, ‘police prison’ or perhaps better ‘police custody’. Flossenburg was a work camp in Bavaria. During its years of operation, it was home to about 90,000, mostly ‘undesirables’ or Russian Prisoners of War. They worked in an ancient quarry, mining granite and breaking it into gravel. Flossenburg was liberated in 1945, but trains were still being sent there as late as December of 1944. Borgemoor was a prison near the Dutch border opened in the 1930s, early in the Nazi regime. Originally it was a military prison for soldiers who had committed offenses, yet political prisoners were also placed there for ’protective custody’. As the Allies approached, the prison was closed and the 1000 inmates sent on a death march, of which about 100 survived.