Holocaust memorial ‘stumbling stones’ may return to Munich

As part of the nationwide Holocaust memorial in Germany, a scheme was started in 1996 by a German artist who created a series of ‘stumbling stones’. The stones are small brass plaques laid outside of the homes of Holocaust victims across German cities.

Today there are more than 50,000 stumbling stones in over 1,000 towns and cities across Europe. It is thought that it may now have become the largest memorial worldwide.

The stones are the size of a street cobblestone and are permanently cemented into place on the pavement outside of the homes of known Holocaust victims. Each of the stones is engraved with the name or names of the victims.

The stones have become a feature throughout German cities, except for Munich. The mayor of Munich in 2004 stopped the stones being laid on public property in 2004. However the city has a new mayor and the ban looks as though it will be overturned.

Munich played a key role in the fostering of Nazism, and it is known as the city where Nazism had its roots.

Dieter Reiter, Munich’s new mayor, is eager to allow the stones back to Munich after having been lobbied by Terry Swartzberg, a local American Jew who is leading an initiative to get the memorial back to Munich city.

Surprisingly, some of those opposed to the stone’s return are Jews themselves, who believe that the victims of the Holocaust deserve a lot better than simply a stone plaque in the street. However, it seems that the majority of local people do want to see the stones return to Munich on a much larger scale, particularly as part of the 70th anniversary commemorations for the end of World War Two.

Gunter Demnig is the artist who came up with the idea for the stumbling stones and who created them. He says the idea came to him when he was attending a memorial service for Holocaust victims.  He overheard a local German person say that no Holocaust victims had lived in that area; he knew this was untrue, The Telegraph reports.

Gunter says he likes the name stumbling stones because it means people simply come across them in their everyday life, and is a reminder that someone who was murdered by the Nazi regime once lived at that house.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE