The brass-plated cobblestones shine in the low setting sun on the main pedestrian stretch of Heidelberg, the Hauptstraße. The special cobblestones are called Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks or stumbling stones) and are about 10x10 cm. Their purpose is to remind everyone of the individuals who were victims of the Holocaust.
A stumbling stone identifies an individual person by name who disappeared during the Holocaust. On a crowded day, you could walk right over or past the stones and miss the memorial.
The Stolpersteins are set in front of the buildings where the individuals used to live to bring back the memory of the people who lived among us.
Refering to photo #3 below. The Durlacher family lived at house number 121 which is in the middle of the main street, the Hauptstraße, in Heidelberg. Engraved on their stones are the facts of their fate: the father Hermann Durlacher was 45 years old when he and his 41 year-old wife Marta and their two sons Walter (15) and Ludwig (12) were arrested.
First the family was separated: the parents were deported to Gurs, an internment camp in southwestern France, not far from Pau while their children were sent away via a special childrens transport. Hermann and Marta were both killed in Auschwitz, but their children survived in England.
Today there are over 70,000 such Stolpersteine throughout Europe to "commemorate the victims of National Socialism, keeping alive the memory of all Jews, Roma, Sinti, Homosexuals, Dissidents, Jehovah Witnesses, and victims of Euthanasia who were deported and exterminated". *
Gunter Demnig started the initiative as an art installation in 1992 by setting the first Stolpersteine without any ceremony or permit in Berlin. He personally has set most of the stones in Germany over the past 20+ years. It has become the world's largest de-centralized memorial.
The cobblestone as a memorial was chosen due to the symbolism. During the Holocaust, the grave markers of the Jews were removed by the Nazis from the cemetaries and used to make sidewalk paving stones, a deliberate act of desceration of the dead since their names were visible to the people passing by. Because of this symbolism, the Stolpersteins are sometimes criticized as a memorial.
For 120€ anyone can sponsor a stone at the stolpersteine web address below.