HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE – Across Europe 100,000 Stolpersteine combat hatred

When asked about his Stolpersteine, the stumbling stones scattered throughout Europe, the German artist Gunter Demnig quotes the Talmud: “A person is not forgotten until his name is”. For over thirty years now, he has been committed to commemorate individuals at the last place of residency before being deported, persecuted, and forced to leave by Nazi extermination or persecution. To do so, he has embedded his brass cobblestones, cubes sized 10 cm (3.9 in.) on the sidewalks of hundreds of cities.
They are mostly placed at the building front door, and each bears a brass plate inscribed with the victim’s name and life dates. Last year, Demnig posited his 100,000th stumbling block, a milestone as tragic as it is significant for this remembrance project involving about 28 countries.
Stolpersteine not only symbolize the ideal burial place for those who were denied it but deepens our knowledge about that tragic time. Each project is accompanied by research about the victims’ life and is thus an opportunity to reconstruct their identity, story, and family ties.
Italy has joined it for a long time, with stumbling stones placed from Rome to Trieste. Notably, in 2023 a Stolpersteine was placed for the first time in Trieste to commemorate a Romani Sinti deportee thanks to the project “Memoria a più voci” by the Union of Young Jews of Italy and the Union of the Romani communities.
In recognition of Gunter Demnig’s impactful art project, the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin bestowed him an honorary degree in 2022. “There are many reasons to point out the exceptional nature of Gunter Demnig’s artistic operation and figure,” stated the President of the “Widespread” Museum of the Resistance in a dedicated publication. “We highlight his constant activity to contrast denial and his ability to implement an aesthetic and memorial device that came to represent the largest European monument to the victims of Nazi-fascist deportation and extermination.”
For these reasons Which is why the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, where Gunter Demnig recently placed 13 new Stolpersteine, awarded him an honorary degree for the relevance of his public artwork in 2022. As the President of the Jewish Community of Turin Dario Disegni explained, “These stones, which by now number in the tens of thousands and every year increase, reclaim the individuality and human stories of those reduced to a number. They call upon us to remember and educate those who are not aware of that tragedy, who forget or cultivate a faded and sweetened image of that period, who trivialize it or misinterpret through flawed comparisons to our time. The purpose is to strengthen our society’s commitment against intolerance, racism, and antisemitism, sadly resurfacing in today’s world.”
Demnig himself has always prioritized engaging the youth in his mission. “I am often asked for information on the meaning of the word and the concept of Stolperstein, and it’s hard to translate it,” he explained in a message to the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin. “It does not fully translate into English or French, but Italian captures the essence. I don’t know how I came up with this word, but a high school student gave a beautiful definition. After a stone’s placement, a journalist asked him if stumbling blocks were dangerous. ‘You risk to trip over’, he said. ‘No’, replied the boy, ‘you don’t fall. You stumble with your head and your heart”.

Above: stumbling stones in Florence.