When we get to a big city with an overwhelming amount of things to check out, we always ask our friends – both the locals and the globetrotters – for their “favorites” lists. This time around, Judy Uman wrote “Be sure to see all the Stolpersteines, (stumbling blocks) installed on the sidewalks to honor the memory of the Jewish residents of Berlin taken away in the holocaust.” Stolpersteines? This is our third visit to Berlin and we’ve never noticed them before… But sometimes you need to look down to get enlightened.
Berlin artist Gunter Deming began the project in the mid-1990s as a way of bringing the mind-boggling loss of millions of victims of the Holocaust – Jews, Romani, homosexuals, political dissidents, the physically and mentally disabled, resistance fighters and Jehova’s Witnesses – down to a very intimate, human scale. Each block commemorates a single individual and is installed on the sidewalk in front of the house where the person lived before being taken away by the Nazis to prisons and concentrations camps. There are now more than 48,000 stones in 18 countries in Europe making the project the world’s largest Holocaust memorial.