On a recent guided tour of Ladenburg, a beautifully preserved town near Heidelberg, our German guide paused to show us several small brass plaques that had been embedded into the street.
About the size of a small cobblestone, thousands of these plaques have been quietly placed in cities across Germany and nearby countries, as a remembrance to the Jewish people who lived there that were killed in the Holocaust.
Called Stolpersteine, or Stumble Stones, the plaques are hand engraved with the names, dates of birth and known details of the victims' deportation and death.
“This is my life’s work,” explained Cologne artist Gunter Demnig who laid the first stones in Berlin in 1997. According to Demnig, “a person is only forgotten when his name is forgotten.” Indeed, the Nazis understood this when they dehumanized their victims by replacing their names with numbers.
On this street in Ladenburg, we saw a family of four: the Kaufmanns. Deported to Auschwitz in 1940, they were murdered there in 1942.
These plaques are a small way to pay tribute to the many victims of the Holocaust and "stumbling" across them makes us pause and read their names, giving them back some small measure of humanity that was taken from them.
Gunter Demnig’s German website, www.stolpersteine.com, gives a biography and current list of projects. Next up on his agenda are stones to be placed in Selb, Landshut and Burghausen near Munich on July 1. Anyone can sponsor a stone by contacting Demnig. The cost is 105 euros.
Related article: This Stars & Stripes article gives a personal story of remembrance in Wiesbaden.