The Stolpersteine Remembrance: A Controversial Holocaust Memorial

With well over 12,000 stones in existence, some critics argue that the ubiquitous Stolpersteine are offensive.

Imagine if 98% of your community was eradicated from your city. The remembrance of such decimation, seemingly, would be etched in the psyches of generations to come. Certainly carved into the soul of the city.

That’s exactly what happened in Munich, what many call the birthplace of National Socialism (aka Nazism), where out of the 10,000 Jewish citizens living there when Hitler came to power only 200 remained by the end of World War II.

But if there’s one observation to be made about Germany and the rest of Europe post-WWII, it’s that they do not shame away from Holocaust memorials. Subsequent generations, from this outsider’s eye, are committed to upholding the promise to “never forget” with an abundance of prominent memorials, museums, commemorated sites, and more.

The “Stolpersteine” Project is an example of this. Created by the German artist Gunter Demnig, it marks domiciles with paving stones made out of brass, memorializing Jewish citizens that lived in them before being deported and killed in Nazi concentration camps. The paving-stones-cum-plaques show their names along with the dates and locations of their births, and deaths in places like Dachau and Auschwitz.

Demnig has been installing commemorative plaques all over Europe since 1993. The story goes, part of the reason he installs the plaques on the ground instead of the facades of the buildings they’re meant to mark is because many landlords don’t allow such a display to be fixed on their buildings.

Bringing us to the controversy. According to AnArchitecture and Initiative Stolpersteine für München, Munich – Hitler’s ideological cradle – remains the only major city in Germany without the stumbling blocks. Critics argue that the stones are an inappropriate way to remember the victims, some citing fears of vandalism and others concerns that the stones amount to Jews being stomped on, all over again. Literally.

What do you think? Highly lauded and (with well over 12,000 stones in existence) ubiquitous, could the Stolpersteine be construed as offensive?

Images: Art Daily; The Smithsonian; The Wip

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.