“Here lived Regina Schrimmer, born in 1885. Deported in 1942, murdered in Riga“. This is the translation of one of the many Stolpersteine found in Berlin. Stolperstein is a German word which means “stumbling block” or “obstacle” in English. In this case stolperstein refers to the small cobblestone-sized memorials that can be found in pavements in Berlin, other German cities and even other countries throughout Europe. Each brass cobblestone represents the life of a Jewish person murdered during the 2nd World War. The stones have all been laid out, like regular cobblestones, in the pavement outside the house where the murdered person used to live. Later on the project expanded to cover all who were murdered by the nazi’s like homosexuals, disabled people etc.
This all started back in 1994 when the artist Gunter Demnig got the idea and placed his first stolperstein in Cologne. From that day another 30.000 have been laid out in the pavements in different European cities and, to this date, the number is still growing.
I think stolpersteine is a beautiful idea. Whenever I saw one of those stones I got reminded of a dark past not that long ago but even more so, I got reminded of a single and unique person who would otherwise be lost in the grim and horrible statistics we find in our history books.
A Cambridge historian, Joseph Pearson, says it better. “It is not what is written on the stolpersteine which intrigues, because the inscription is insufficient to conjure a person. It is the emptiness, void, lack of information, the maw of the forgotten, which gives the monuments their power and lifts them from the banality of a statistic“