Tag Archives: holocaust

Stolpersteine in Munich

Stolpersteine are a privately funded art project and memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. They are golden cobblestones inscribed with individuals’ names and birth and death details, placed at the last location the person chose to live. There are more than 40,000 in Europe, but there are just 25 in Munich, all on private land. In fact, Munich is the only city in Germany that prohibits Stolpersteine on public walkways.

Stolpersteine in Berlin
Stolpersteine in Berlin

This policy (in place since 2004) is largely due to loud objections from some members of the Orthodox Jewish community. One community leader and Holocaust survivor, Charlotte Knobloch, has been paticularly active in ensuring the ban remains in place. She argues that Stolpersteine are a disrespectful memorial because they enable people to literally trample the memories of the dead. But many people—including Holocaust survivor Ernst Grube—disagree. Stolpersteine serve as a beautiful, dispersed memorial of the dead. Unlike a centralized monument, they’re something ordinary citizens encounter and think about during the course of their daily lives. And they are never installed against the wishes of victims’ surviving family members. Continue reading Stolpersteine in Munich

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National identity

Magda: ‘Who else was on your tour of Auschwitz? What nationalities?’

Ilana: ‘Israelis, Americans, Czechs, Spaniards, Australians, Poles, and Germans, I think.’

Magda: ‘Germans should be ashamed of themselves, visiting Auschwitz!’

Ilana: ‘Isn’t it actually more important for Germany and Germans to understand and remember the Holocaust and WWII? Shouldn’t they, rather than avoiding such sites, make an effort to visit them?’

Magda and I had to agree to disagree. My grandmother and I have had similar arguments about whether you can hold contemporary Germany (or even contemporary Germans) responsible for the country’s past. What determines national identity? Can a country be responsible for something it did historically, even when most of the individuals who were involved have died? How should Germany’s past shape its current policies and its citizens’ behavior?

I don’t know. I tend to be of the ‘clean slate’ view, but clearly there are many people who disagree.