On Wednesday, April 3, Wittenberg University will host (Un)Forgotten Neighbors: Holocaust Memorial Stones in a Well-Known German Small Town, a presentation on the Stolpersteine/Stumbling Stones Project and its impact on the town of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. The Stolpersteine, literally translated as stumbling stones, is a public art project of German artist Gunter Demnig that memorializes victims of the Holocaust by placing four-inch square brass markers in front of their former homes. As of October 2018, 70,000 Stolpersteine had been laid in 24 European countries, making the Stolpersteine the largest decentralized memorial in the world.
Presenters Mario Dittrich, a publisher, and Reinhard Pester, a child survivor of the Holocaust, co-founded Initiative Stolpersteine Wittenberg as a way of ensuring that the young people and visitors to Lutherstadt Wittenberg could learn the stories of the fate of the 30 Jewish inhabitants memorialized by the Stolpersteine in their town. Their April 3 presentation will take place at 6:15 p.m. in Shouvlin Hall, Room 105, on the campus of Wittenberg University in Springfield. A light dinner will be provided.
According to the artist, the Stolpersteine “tell the casual walker that in the house he or she is standing outside once lived people who were rounded up and taken away to be murdered because of their ethnicity, religion, politics or sexual persuasion.”
“I designed the stumble stones to bring back the names of Holocaust victims to where they had lived,” says Demnig. “In my opinion, existing memorials have failed to do that. Once a year, some official lays a wreath, but the average citizen can avoid the site very easily.”
Becoming Beloved Community is about tuning our ears to stories and experiences that we’ve not been able to hear; about opening our eyes to the pain, challenges and tragedies that might happen right in front of our eyes without our noticing; about re-membering – putting back together in a more complete way – stories that have been broken, passed by or supposedly put to rest. The Stumbling Stones Project is an initiative that does all this on an international level: it puts a marker in real time and in a real place of those who might have otherwise disappeared without a physical trace.
One of the most powerful aspects of the Stumbling Stones is that they aren’t tucked away in a museum. Instead they are in the everyday places that people pass by in their everyday lives, reminding all of us that the daily moments are themselves the building blocks for what we do, whether that is to build a beloved community or to destroy it. As such, the project is uplifting and convicting at the same time. I hope that you will join us for this compelling presentation.
You can learn more about the Stolpersteine at http://www.stolpersteine.eu/en/home/
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The Rev. Jennifer Oldstone-Moore serves as Priest in charge of Christ Church, Xenia, and is a professor of religion and East Asian studies at Wittenberg University.