Stolpersteine – A Memorial Project

Stolpersteine 1: In memory of Hugo Harzopf, Paula Harzopf, Eva Harzopf (Schönhauser Allee 41) in Berlin

When I left Konnopke’s Imbiss yesterday, I crossed Schonhauser Allee and walked south a short distance to take a picture of these Stolpersteine.  I had walked passed these brass blocks a few times before an article on Slow Travel Berlin drew my attention to their meaning.

Stolpersteine (the English translation is ‘Stumbling Blocks’) is the brainchild of Berlin-born artist, Gunter Demnig and his website describes ‘A project that preserves the memory of the expulsion and extermination of Jews, Gypsies, the politically persecuted, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and victims of euthanasia under National Socialism.’

The Stolpersteine are brass cobblestones inscribed with the details (name, year of birth and fate) of a person who lived in the building in front of which they are laid, under the words ‘Hier wohnte’ (Here lived).

From what I can interpret of the timeline on the website the project was conceived in 1993 and the first Stolperstein was laid in Kreuzberg in 1996.  At the time Demnig did not have approval to lay the stone, which was legalized later.

By December 2013 more than 43,500 Stolpersteine have been laid in approximately 1,000 locations across Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Russia, Croatia, France, Poland, Slovenia, Italy, Norway, the Ukraine, Slovakia, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

As of January 2014 the cost of a Stolperstein is EUR 120.  The stones are laid by request and it is the requestor who must research the details of the victims.

The proliferation of the stones demonstrates the popularity of the concept and I feel that they are a fitting tribute.  They may be small but somehow that adds to their power to evoke that sensation of what happened where they have been laid.

I plan to take photos of all the Stolpersteine I ‘stumble across’ in Berlin and will post them here.

19 thoughts on “Stolpersteine – A Memorial Project

  1. aryn

    Wow. I had no idea that it started as an art project. I thought the German government placed the stones – will definitely look more into now. Thanks (and danke) for the post.

    1. andBerlin

      Aryn, I was surprised when I read about it myself. I’m also amazed at just how many I notice now and how many times I must have walked passed them without seeing them before, especially those near Hackescher Markt. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and comment. Vielen Dank.

  2. Evs

    Reblogged this on Eavesdropping Berlin and commented:
    An article all about the Stolpersteine that you find in front of buildings in and around Berlin Mitte. Stolpersteine are the brass cobblestones inscribed with the names and fate of the people who had lived in these buildings before the Nazi’s took power in Germany. An eery reminder of this city’s utterly dreadful past. But also a memorial to these people embedded into the streets of Berlin. An thought-inducing creative project all around.

      1. Evs

        Hey the WordPress reblog function turned out to be very clunky (I have now learned my lesson:).
        I hope you don’t mind that I instead wrote a short blurb and linked the whole thing to your blog…

        If this in anyway bothers you, I can take it down. But I am impressed with your collection of photos and would love to make a reference to it.

  3. Steven

    Thank you for this post- I’d seen these around town here in Regensburg, but until I saw this entry, I didn’t know what they were called. Now that I have a name, I was able to write a long post about them. I linked back to here in the context of my own post. Thanks!

    1. andBerlin

      Steven, I’m glad that my post helped you to learn more about Stolpersteine and thank you for linking back to me in your post. I wonder if like me you’ll start to notice more of them now that you know more about them.

  4. fiona

    There are 8 being laid outside my building in a couple of weeks time. I don’t know whether Gunter Demnig is coming to lay them, I think perhaps it’s probably someone from our building (on gthe Tuesday), and then the following Sunday we have a little ceremony to go to. Not entirely sure what that’ll be like, but I am looking forward to seeing them being laid.

    1. andBerlin

      I would love to see Gunter Demnig at work. I got very excited when I saw what looked like newly laid stones a couple of weeks ago and was hoping that he was in the area. I hope you’ll blog about the event.

      1. fiona

        If I find out it’s him doing it, I will let you know. But yes, I will def. be taking photos ad blogging about it!

  5. Luci

    Really love this post and your subsequent series of Stolperstein images. To me they are an important aspect to the Berlin landscape. As much as it’s sad, I think there’s also grace in the fact that the city and culture allowed an artist (with information by families and friends) to pay tribute to the victims of these horrible crimes in such a subtle, but moving and permanent way. I had fantasized about making a video on these stones – but this is really the proper way to share them.
    x Luci

    1. andBerlin

      Thanks Luci. I think some of the larger and well-known memorials are great but I love the fact that Stolpersteine recognise the individual’s suffering and personalise the tragedy. I think that Stolpersteine would be a great subject for one of your videos. You should get in touch with Gunter Demnig through Twitter and film the laying of some stones. Many residents also have some form of ceremony once the stones have been laid.

  6. travelsofadam

    Didn’t realize it translated as “stumbling blocks” or that they cost 120€ tp place them. It’s one of the things I love most about Berlin—the fact that history is always right under your feet.


    Really excellent post. I’m so glad that you explained the Stolperstein. The entire time we lived in Berlin we saw them and could find no explanation as to their meaning. Only after leaving and encountering them in the Netherlands did we finally understand. Thanks. All the best, Terri

  8. Pingback: Berlin's Stolpersteines Remembering the Past | Bear Rikers Berlin

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