Stolperstein-Part One: The Beginning

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.

This Stolperstein is in Koln. It commemorates the life and death of Gunter Schwartz who was hanged in Koln on November 10th, 1944. He was 16.I will say that they have taught more about the Holocaust. After seeing so many unfamiliar places, I had to look them up. Maybe more importantly, through encountering these plaques on my daily routine, I saw the victims in a unique light. On one hand, I was not able to choose the location and timing when I Holocaust confronted me. I could imagine that these would have been the very people I stood in line with at the supermarket.Here is a collection of the Stolperstein I have been able to find. I wasn’t able to record the locations, but I believe some of them are from Holland, Italy and Belgium. As it’s a German project, most of them are in Germany. To the best of my knowledge they come from the cities of Berlin, Düsseldorf, Koln, Heidelberg, Trier, Freiburg, Duisburg, Munster, Neuss and maybe a few others. I will do my best to explain them.Each Stolperstein will have these words at the minimum. Hier wohnt- meaning “here lived”Geborn -born. Sometimes the say Geb and another name, that means this woman’s maiden name was LevinsonDeportiert,“deported” is a common term used. It means the sufferer was rounded up and sent away on a train, in these cases, probably not directly to a concentration camp. Ermordet is “murdered”, the choice of the term was deliberate.Pflegeanstalt means ‘nursing home’. Hielanstalt is a hospital for mental patients or people with chronic illnesses.Maw Liebers lived in a nursing home in Freiburg and was sent to Geislingento be euthanized in 193

The T4 program, named after the Tiergarten address of its office, was the name for the Nazi’s Euthanasia Program. To facilitate racial purity and the purging of impure blood from Germany, the National Socialists (official name for Nazis) murdered mental patients, crippled and terminally ill. Not Jews or any group in particular, just those deemed unfit for life or a danger to the gene pool. In 1941, the office and medical staff of  Hadamar met in the hospital’s  crematorium room to celebrate the cremation of their 10,000th patient.

Walter Erie was a patient at Heilanstalt Grafenberg, near Dusseldorf and was sent to Hadamar where he was murdered in 1939.

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