The memory of the victims of National Socialism has become part of our everyday lives, thanks to the Stolpersteine project, which invites active commemoration.
The Stolpersteine project is a new kind of remembrance in the public space,integrated with everyday life and, perhaps for that reason, particularly impressive. Everywhere in Berlin, we stumble at house entrances over small, brass squares embedded in the pavement. These memorial plaques are engraved with the words, “Here lived…” followed by names and dates of birth and death. Each ‘Stolperstein’ commemorates a person at this address who was persecuted, murdered or forced into exile or suicide. Surviving family members are also named in order to create a ‘reunion’ in remembrance.
“A person is only forgotten if his or her name is forgotten.” This quotation from the Talmud is the leitmotif of artist Gunter Demnig’s project.
A central aspect of the Stolpersteine idea is that everyone is invited to take part and suggest another place where one should be laid. In other words, anyone can research the history of the person to be commemorated (the Stolperstein project provides information for research) and raise the necessary material costs for the laying of the ‘Stolperstein’, thus becoming its patron. In this way, remembrance becomes a collective act made possible and visible through people’s initial involvement.
Many have already taken the initiative: residents of the houses where the victims lived, relatives, school classes… There are already more than 4,700 Stolpersteine in Berlin. In total, over 40,000 of these personal memorials have been laid, with more than 8,600 of them in Germany. Stolpersteine are also to be found in Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Italy, Norway, Ukraine, Slovakia and Luxembourg, and since 2012 also in Russia and Croatia.
The Stolpersteine are considered the world’s largest, decentralised memorial. They stand in our present time as a memory to the victims of National Socialist persecution and are at once an appeal to all individuals to become active participants in remembrance.
Food for thought: What role can the remembrance of past injustice take in our everyday lives?
“A person is only forgotten if his or her name is forgotten”