Stumbling Blocks - Art or not?
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
by Rossella Mocerino with Sherry Fyman
Many major cities in Europe have a monument to commemorate the Holocaust but the Stolpersteine (stumbling stones or blocks) by German artist Gunter Demnig is the one that I relate to the most in a very visceral way. The stumbling blocks are not put one on top of the other with a slab with a list of names of the victims of the Holocaust and maybe with some message about the evil in men and the atrocities perpetrated on Jews, political prisoners and anyone else who got in the way of an Arian race. Gunter Demnig’s monument is far more reaching and less easy to dismiss from daily modern life.
In Demnig’s vision, each victim is represented by a 4” square brass plaque, a stumbling block, that is positioned in the pavement in front of the residence where they were taken by the Nazis. Stolpersteine are found all over Europe - Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic, Belgium and Ukraine, Italy, Norway, Slovakia and Slovenia, France, Croatia, Luxemburg, Russia and Switzerland, Romania, Greece and Spain, Belarus, Lithuania, Finland, Moldovia, Denmark and Sweden. This project is far from finished. More than 75,000 stumbling blocks have been installed to date and other communities throughout Europe are committed to joining the project. Each plate is engraved with the name of the victim, date of birth, where they were deported to and when they were murdered. In a few cases, it carries the date of when they were liberated.
Each person was denied forever the freedom to enter and leave their homes for simple things like going shopping, meeting a friend, taking a walk, walking their dogs or any of the activities we engage in every day. They were taken alone, they were taken with all their family members, they were taken with strangers, they were taken at different times, they were very old and very young. They were denied the right to fall in love. They will never be able to change residence. Each address will forever be where their lives stopped.
We first came in contact with some stumbling blocks in Vienna and since then, whenever we travel to Europe, we look for them. In Vienna, we asked ourselves how could this happen in a city full of culture and music. In Venice walking to Piazza San Marco for Carnevale and its merriment, we are reminded that just a short distance from it, a woman was forever denied merriment. In Rome, as we step out of the hotel where we are staying ready for the Eternal City, we see another stumbling block commemorating the death of a priest who hid those sought by the Nazis. In Berlin, stumbling blocks are everywhere. We will be going to Paris soon but we won’t be looking for stumbling blocks in the City of Lights. As of now, the French capital has not allowed this project to be carried out.
This is an art blog so you may ask yourself why we view the stumbling blocks as art instead of just a very moving commemorative project. Simple. The best art forces you to change your perspective, to see the world in a new way. Stolpersteine do that. Since they are imbedded in the sidewalk, you literally have to bend over to see them. You may be walking down a busy commercial street in Berlin, but the Stolpersteine at your feet forces you to stop and recognize that “Here lived Manfred Reiss Born 1926 Deported 1942 Murdered in Auschwitz”. You are forever transformed.
Thank you for forwarding these stumbling blocks you have come across.
Raffaella Beneduce: "I found this walking in Torino."
Raffaella Beneduce: "I took picture of Segre's relatives in Corso Magenta 55 and another in Via De Togni in Milano."
Mauro Argentoni: " Questo è a Bolzano."