Stolpersteine -in singular Stolperstein (German worda stone on the path that can trip the walker) – is a project of the German artist Gunter Demnig . The purpose of this exhortatory monument is to commemorate the fate of human beings who were deported and murdered by the National Socialists . They are cement cubes of 10 x 10 x 10 centimeters that in the upper part they have embedded a brass plate of 10 x 10 centimeters. In this one is recorded the essential data of the person who is commemorated. These monuments are placed on sidewalks, making the necessary space to be received and encementados, already forming part of them, leaving its upper surface almost flush with the ground, being this one superimposed by the slight thickness of the metallic plate. This prominence above ground level could be, as occurs in the placement of paving stones and tiles, cause to cause a stumbling block to the walker. This is the basis of his name. But what is intended is that the traveler, when perceiving the highlight on the road, stop and lean to read what is written on the plate. This inclination could amount to a gesture of respect for the person who is remembered. But, especially, we want to not forget the barbarism of the murders committed, based on Nazi thought.
History of the project
In 1990, Demnig was interested in commemorating artistically the near 50th anniversary of the deportation of 1000 Roma and Sinti that had resided Cologne , since this act had been a preparatory test for the general deportations of German Jews that were carried out next. Demnig informed about this in files and contacts with people who had memories of what happened, giving special importance to locate the last voluntary residence in the city had each of the deportees.
While doing his research he thought that instead of a single memorial, it might be more interesting to make simple but abundant monuments, placing them very diversified. Arrived at this conviction, it is when he considered that in an economic way these monuments could be made giving them form of pavement, providing each of them with a plaque with identifying text and inserting them in the pavement of the streets, integrating in them.
Demnig laid the first stone on December 16, 1992, as fifty years after the order given by Heinrich Himmler for the deportation of “gypsies”, on the pavement of the square of the historic building of the City Hall of Cologne. On the plate the first lines of the text of the deportation decree could be read.
From then on, Demnig developed the project “Stolpersteine”, dedicating it to remember all those killed by the Nazis. It was a gigantic project because in the end they would get to make and place six million stones to keep in mind the six million victims of the Nazi regime.
In 1994 the artist had built in his workshop about 250 stones that were exposed in the church of San Antonio in Cologne. On January 4, 1995, without permission from the City Council, he placed the first stones on the sidewalks. The following year he participated in the exhibition Künstler forschen nach Auschwitz (“Artists investigate on Auschwitz”) in Berlin-Kreuzberg and placed in the street Oranien of that locality, lacking again of administrative authorization, 51 stones. It was on July 19, 1997, when the administration of St. Georgen in Salzburg , Austria , on the proposal of the “Knie” artistic initiative and the Austrian Memory Service , an organization dedicated to the memory of the victims of Nazism Of this locality, allowed him to place legally his first two stones dedicated to Jehovah’s witnesses reprised in the city.
It had to wait until the year 2000 to that in Germany received permission of the administration of Cologne to place there the stones that for this city had projected. From this moment on, in the following years the project took force, was spread widely, acquiring great importance, becoming the most decentralized monument of remembrance of the world. Currently there are more than 50,000 (January 2016) in several countries in Europe 1
Data on people who were persecuted, deported, murdered or elected to death in the face of the persecution they were suffering during Nazi Germany are investigated by various citizens’ initiatives of associations, schools, relatives and survivors. The groups persecuted by the Nazis include Jews , gypsies , politically opposed people, members of resistance movements, homosexuals , Jehovah ‘s Witnesses and victims of euthanasia . The database memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is an aid for research.
On the basis of these data, Demnig manufactures a concrete cube of 10 centimeters on the side, covered by a brass plaque, generally marked with the inscription: Here he resided , Here he lived , Here he taught , Here he chose death , Name of the victim, year of birth, destination, usually the date of deportation or death . The cube is embedded in the sidewalk or the street in front of the door of the last domicile of the victim.
Manufacturing and placement
The stones are made manually so due to the demand they are receiving, it is left to help by some collaborators. Since the death of the victims by the Nazis had a semi-industrial character, insists that these stones must be performed in contrast to one by one and manually.
Make sure that the stone is placed in front of the last address voluntarily occupied by the victim. Because after the war there were streets that destroyed their houses, their space became public spaces such as parks, sports centers, etc., in these cases the stones are placed as close as possible to the last residence but always on sidewalks or Paths, so that the walker “stumbles” with them.
The stones, once placed, become property of the city or municipality.
At the end of 2008, some 17 000 Stolpersteine had been placed in some 400 German cities. And lately also in cities in Spain , Italy , Netherlands and Hungary . But placement planned for 1 September as 2006 in Poland was not carried out because the authorization was withdrawn.
The “Stolpersteine” are financed by donations, collections and sponsorship of individual citizens, school classes, professional categories and communes. One bucket costs 95 euros .
The filmmaker Doerte Franke made a documentary about the Stolpersteine.
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