Stolpersteine

I think the large Holocaust memorial here [in Berlin] will always remain abstract. You have to make the decision to visit it. But not with the stumbling blocks. Suddenly they are there, right outside your front door, at your feet, in front of you.

Guenther Demnig
Morning Edition – Stumbling Upon Mini Memorials To Holocaust Victims May 31, 2012

The artist Gunter Demnig has placed almost 60,000 “Stolpersteine” cobblestones across Europe. The first 50 were placed in Berlin in May 1996. Illegally. Now, it is the biggest decentralized monument in the world.

20 years of ‘Stolpersteine’

Stolpersteine translates, literally, into stumbling stones. You stumble over them because they are obvious. Gunter Demnig has earned his place in artistic history, placing every one of the 60,000 stolpersteine himself. This is the website where you can donate to the fund or even pay to have one placed with a name of your choice.

I was thinking of posting the memorial image below again today on Facebook, as I have for the last few years, because it is once again the anniversary of Sophie Scholl’s death sentence.

…but those really aren’t her final words, except that they were in one of the last letters she wrote before the death sentence was carried out. What her final words were remain undocumented. That she died at the hands of people who thought she did not belong, is documented. So I’m creating this post in memory of her on this date. In memory of all the holocaust victims, with the sincere hope that we don’t have to start installing stolpersteine in the US in order to mark the spots were the brown-skinned people we arrested and hauled off to their deaths used to live, because people in this country continue to deny that it has happened here, and continues to happen here.

New York Times – The White Rose Guillotine

We know their story well, these students who wrote the Leaflets of the White Rose. We know their bravery, their utter courage, how they wrote death-defying words that led straight to the guillotine.

Yet we hardly know them at all. We focus so tightly on their noble deeds that we overlook who they were. We’re listening so closely for those awe-inspiring retorts as the students stand before Judge Freisler that we miss the wonder of the debates that stirred them to act.

When we begin to step back to “see” them better, to grasp the whole of their work, we find that our widened lens is capturing people we don’t know at all. There are new faces, new voices, new perspectives.

Before long, we realize there is so much more to “resistance” during the Shoah than just White Rose, more even than White Rose plus 20 July 1944 plus Rote Kapelle plus the Kreisauer Circle and the handful of other groups that have made their way into the literature.

Every new story we find – whether it is Helmuth Hübener and his friends, or Helle Hirsch, or the BMW leaflet writers – demonstrates how much there is still to learn about the strength of character of so many unknown heroes.

Once that camera lens pans the landscape of thousands of courageous individuals, our spirits are lifted. We understand that even in the darkest of days, there were those who stood up for justice, those who did the right thing no matter the cost.

The Center for White Rose Studies has dedicated its resources to uncovering those stories. We began with White Rose, but we are actively documenting as many heroic acts (and heroes) as we can.

We believe that these biographies will inspire and encourage young people in 21st century America to live lives characterized by integrity and the pursuit of justice. We believe that, because we know how the stories have affected us.

Join us on this journey!

White Rose Studies