"A person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten." Words from the Talmud, no less, and the inspiration behind the world's "largest commemoration project", the Stolperstein.
The brainchild of German artist Gunter Demnig in the early 1990s, Stolpersteine – stumbling stones or blocks – are commemorative brass plaques installed in the pavement in front of a Holocaust victim's last address of choice. Each engraving begins with the words, "Here lived…"
Cohort VI enjoyed a lively afternoon with ethical campaigner Terry Swartzberg, who is a tireless and, quite clearly, passionate advocate of the memorial project. “Stolpersteine are just the start of getting to know someone, an introduction to the victim,” he explains. “We can restore their name to our consciousness.”
An American Jew, Swartzberg has lived in Munich for over 30 years, where he heads up the local Stolperstein initiative. It is but one of 1,000 local pro bono organizations working for the Stolperstein cause.
Today, there are some 70,000 such memorials in 21 countries and over 2,000 cities. There are, for instance, some 8,000 in Berlin. "Wherever you go, you're confronted with remembrance," he adds.
Each year, on the anniversary of Reichskristallnacht – the night of broken glass – local Stolperstein members and schoolchildren take to the streets to clean the bronze memorials. Swartzberg is convinced that this generation of German youngsters is more connected to the Holocaust than any that preceded it.
And the project continues to gather momentum. Anyone wishing to organize a Stolperstein-laying ceremony will have a lengthy wait. Demnig is fully booked until September 2018!
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