In 1990 the Berlin-born artist Gunther Deming marked in chalk the route taken by Cologne’s gypsies when they were deported in 1940. Three years later an older woman gave him an idea, leading to his stumbling stone project.
At first he placed the stones for Jewish WWII victims without official permission, but Germany made it legal in 2000, and by now he has personally placed almost 38,000 stumbling stones in over 650 German towns and cities, nearly 5000 in Berlin alone.
He has also been invited to place stones in over hundred places in countries surrounding Germany, including Norway, where more than 70 stones will be placed in the course of 2016.
The German city Munich, however, implemented a ban on the stones 12 years ago, when Charlotte Knobloch, leader of the city’s Jewish community and former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, claimed they were not respectful of the victims they intend to honor.
But brick by brick Deming’s “stumbling stones” or Stolpersteine are changing how the Holocaust is publicly remembered in Europe.
In Norway, the Jewish Museum in Oslo is responsible for researching the history of the victims and laying the stones inscribed with their names. A stumbling stone is a cobblestone-size (10 by 10 cm or 3.9 x 3.9 in) concrete cube bearing a brass plate inscribed with the name and life dates of individual victims of German Nazism. They aim at commemorating individual persons at exactly the last place of residency – or sometimes work. “Here lived” (Norwegian, “Her bodde”) begins the inscriptions engraved on every one.
“This is my life’s work. I will continue for as long as I’m able,” says Demnig. “Giving names back to the dead is a way of keeping them alive.”
Stumbling Stones in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg