Even if you don’t actually see a stolperstein, you may still stumble across one; they are slightly raised above pavement level.
Literally translating as “Stumbling Stones”, the Stolpersteine may be the largest and most haunting art project every conceived. But it’s not something you can visit; instead, parts of it lie everywhere you go in Berlin - it’s intended to be a constant presence and an all-pervasive reminder of one of the greatest tragedies in modern history.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Keep your eyes to the ground for an hour as you walk around, and the chances are you’ll see a small brass cube embedded somewhere in the pavement. Look closer, and you’ll be able to make out an inscription, which usually begins with the words Hier wohnte, meaning Here Lived. These words are followed by an epitaph for a man, woman or child who once lived in the adjacent building and was deported to a concentration camp and abused, enslaved or murdered during the Holocaust.
A Continent-Wide Project
The effect of the Stolpersteine is chilling and immediate. The sheer quantity of them - there are now over 50,000 in 18 countries - and the frequency with which you can find them, serves as an omnipresent reminder of this horrendous episode. The stones are the brainchild of artist Gunter Demnig, who began the project in 1992 with a stone laid in front of Cologne’s town hall, which had once been a centre for enthusiastic support for the Nazi regime. Since then, Demnig has travelled far and wide across the continent, placing the stones in more than 550 European cities.
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