The summer of 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. There were many significant commemorative events throughout Britain and France, as well as remembrances in other parts of the world including Canada and the United States. Over the years, modern Germany has dealt with its difficult past head on through education and memory projects. One of the most unique is the stumbling stones in Germany.
Stumbling Stones in Germany
A silent commemoration of the victims of World War II exists throughout Germany, in cities like Berlin and Baden-Baden. They are the stumbling stones, or stolpersteine.
The stumbling stones were created by German artist Gunter Demnig. He founded the project in the mid-1990s to memorialize individuals who were victims of the Nazis during World War Two.
The name stolperstein means ‘stumbling block’ in German. The stumbling ‘stones’ are actually small brass memorial plaques etched with Hier Wohnte (here lived), and the name, date of birth, deportation and death or notice of emigration of war victims.
The stones are installed on the sidewalk in front of the last known residence of victims. Their high polish makes them stand out from other cobblestones and pavement. While not tripping hazards, they do cause pedestrians to stop and take a closer look, which is the artist’s intention.
What do the Stumbling Stones commemorate
The stumbling stones in Berlin, Baden-Baden and other cities commemorate victims of National Socialism in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. Many of those victims were German Jews, but the stones also commemorate the deportation of Roma and Sinti to concentration camps in Eastern Europe.
There are stumbling stones in Amsterdam, Rome, and many other cities in Europe.
Stumbling Stones of Baden-Baden
As deportations increased during the war, many German Jews relocated to Baden-Baden, hoping that its international reputation as a sophisticated cultural hub would prevent deportation. It did not, and most of the Jewish population was sent to concentration camps and killed.
More than 70,000 stumbling stones have been embedded in 1,000 cities and towns throughout Germany, as well as more than 20 European countries. There are 142 stones in Baden-Baden, a sober reminder of darker times in this spa paradise.
Read more about Baden-Baden.