History has always fascinated me, and I think that is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting Europe so much. Every time I visit, I always learn something new. I heard many captivating and exciting tidbits of information on my recent European vacation with my mom, but one fact in particular was truly heartwarming and unforgettable.
While on a city walking tour of Cologne, Germany, our guide pointed out a small bronze plaque embedded into the sidewalk. Now mind you, this was my second time to do this walking tour in Cologne and I had never noticed these before nor were they pointed out to me by my previous guide. Anyway, the guide proceeded to explain the significance of the plaque to the group. After hearing the explanation, I cannot believe my previous guide did not mention these in his tour.
My tour guide stated the plaques were called Stolpersteine which in English means, “stumbling stones or blocks.” The stones were designed by artist Gunter Demnig in 1992. They are commemorative stones to the victims of the Nazi regime. The stones are placed at the last known address of the Holocaust victim. Each plaque has the victim’s name, date of birth, deportation date, and date of death if known.
The stones are a way to remember the individual and not the event as other memorials tend to do. The plaques are sponsored by surviving family members, residents who once lived in the building, or people who want to support the project and help preserve the memory of the victims. When a stone has been sponsored, the artist will visit the location and personally install it.
There are more than 45,000 stones placed in over 1,200 locations across 17 European countries. In Germany alone, these stones can be found in 916 different places with over 5,000 located in Berlin. The plaques can be found in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Our guide stated that when someone “stumbles” over the stone, they must bow down to read the inscription. The bowing reflects the respect to the victim and after reading the inscription, the victim is not forgotten, but remembered in our hearts and minds.
If you are planning a vacation to Europe, please pay attention to the sidewalks and pay your respects to those not forgotten. If you are interested in purchasing a plaque, please visit the following website:
Information for this blog was comprised from information received on Viking’s "Cologne Walking Tour", https://www.stolpersteine.eu/en/home/ , and https://www.germany.info/us-en/welcome/03-Jewish-Life-Germany/-/1308424
Picture taken by Amy Marble while on Viking's "Cologne Walking Tour" in Cologne, Germany on July 1, 2022.