Stones for Remembering


Stolperstein, Berlin Germany
Georg Slickers, via Wikimedia Commons

Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin look at the stumbling stone memorials in Europe. These stones encourage people to remember victims of the Holocaust.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Imagine you are in the city of Frankfurt, Germany. You are walking along a street. As you walk past a house, you notice something shiny on the ground. You look down. You see a metal covered stone in the walking path. On the stone there are words. It says:

Voice 2

Here lived Alfred Grünebaum
Born 1899
Forced to move to Kowno/Kaunas 1941
Murdered November 25, 1941

Voice 1

What would you think if you saw a stone like this? Would the words shock you? Would they make you stop and think?

Voice 2

This stone is called a Stolperstiene. In German this means stumbling stone. German artist Gunter Demnig created this and many other stumbling stone memorials. Each stumbling stone represents one victim killed during the Holocaust of World War Two. Today’s Spotlight is on Gunter Demnig and his stumbling stones.

Voice 1

During World War Two, the Nazi political party ruled Germany. The Nazis fought to expand their rule in Europe. During this time, they also tried to rid Germany and surrounding countries of particular groups of people – like Jewish and Romani people. They forced millions of people from their homes. They also killed millions more in planned executions, and in prison camps. This horrible event is called the Holocaust.

Voice 2

During the Holocaust, the Nazis killed between 11 and 17 million people total. They killed nearly 6 million Jews. They also killed many other groups that they considered non German - like the Romani people.  The Nazis killed anyone who lacked physical or mental abilities. And they even killed Germans who did not agree with their beliefs.

Voice 1

The Holocaust was a terrible event in German history. Some people may want to forget the Holocaust, but Gunter Demnig believes it is important to remember and honor the many victims. And he wants people to remember the victims individually - by their name. So, in 1996, he began the stumbling stone art project.

Voice 2

Demnig began his project by researching individual victims of the Holocaust. He learned where each victim last lived - before the Nazis forced them to move. He researched what happened to each person when the Nazis came. He also found where and how each person died.

Voice 1

Next, Demnig began making his stumbling stones. He used special tools to press the victim’s information onto a thin piece of metal. He bent the metal over a square stone. And he placed these stones in walking paths outside a victim’s last home or place of work.

Voice 2

“Stumbling stone” is a common expression. It describes a rock found on a path. Often, a person does not see a stumbling stone until their foot hits it. And when their foot hits a stumbling stone, it causes them to lose their balance. In the same way, Demnig wants his stumbling stones to make people lose their mental balance. He wants people to briefly stop in their path. He wants them to think about the individual the stone represents. He told travel writer, Barbara Kingstone,

Voice 3

“I wanted to bring back the names of the Jews who lived and loved. They had children and a normal life. They lived in these houses.”

Voice 1

There are many museums and memorials around the world that honor and remember victims of the Holocaust. But Demnig thinks his stumbling stones will reach people better. He told National Public Radio,

Voice 3

"I think the large Holocaust memorial here, in Berlin, will always remain removed from people’s daily thoughts. You have to decide to visit it. But not with the stumbling stones. Suddenly they are there, right outside your front door, at your feet, in front of you."

Voice 2

Demnig placed the first stumbling stones in the city of Berlin. Since then, he has placed them in more than 610 places in Germany. He has also sent stumbling stones to many other countries - like Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Norway and Ukraine.

Voice 1

People are noticing Demnig’s stumbling stones. Many communities send Demnig special requests for stumbling stones. People from the community work together to raise money to pay for the memorial stones.  The stones will honor Holocaust victims from their communities. Helmut Loelhoeffel helped organize a project to get stumbling stones in Charlottenburg, Germany. He believes Demnig’s work is effective. Loelhoeffel told National Public Radio,

Voice 4

"Six million Jews were killed, murdered. The stumbling stones make clear that it was one person and one person and one person and one person. It makes clear that they were all individuals."

Voice 2

For family members of the victims, seeing a stumbling stone can cause many emotions. When Demnig places the stumbling stones, there is often a ceremony. He often invites families to be involved. Walker Simon attended a stumbling stone ceremony for his father.  He even placed the stone in the ground. He wrote about his experience for the Reuters news organization.

Voice 5

“I placed the stumbling stone for my father into a space in the walking path. My heart shook. Then suddenly it warmed. Then, I was troubled. My mind seemed to speed back to another time, possibly 1937, when my father left Germany.”

Voice 1

People’s reactions to Demnig’s stumbling stones are mixed. Some people love them. Other people are concerned that as people walk over the memorial, the memory of the victim is violated.

Voice 2

Martin Diehl is a Christian leader in Germany. He attended the same ceremony as Walker Simon in the town of Egelsbach. He talked with Simon about why the stumbling stones may make older Germans uncomfortable.

Voice 6

"The stumbling stones are difficult for the older generations of this town. They may have had advantages in life because of the Holocaust. For example, they may have purchased their homes for very little money after Nazis forced people out. So they may feel guilty - like they were part of the crimes."

Voice 1

However, most people are very positive about the stumbling stones. They understand and support Denmig’s goal. Isabel Guettler is a stumbling stone supporter.  She is a teacher in Germany. She told the CNN news organization,

Voice 7

"When you read long lists of dead people's names on a piece of paper, it can feel meaningless. But when you see these interesting stones outside the houses where the victims really lived, it is different. Suddenly you have this very human, emotional connection. I work as a teacher. So for me, these objects play a huge part in educating new generations."

Voice 2

The writer of this program was Courtney Schutt. The producer was Ryan Geertsma. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Stones for Remembering.”

Voice 1

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

Are there memorials in your city or country? What do they help you remember?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
spartaco
said on September 17, 2012

touching

Avatar Spotlight
jack shin
said on December 10, 2013

i think putting stones pressed names of victims who is died from the notorious holocaust on every ground is a brilliant idea, so people walking pass the way can really feel that they were people and they were living there just like us. and i so understand from some of the words he said in this script, which are ” The Holocaust memorial is not always remain forgot until they make an effort to remind about that. ” Everything can be fade away unless we see them and think about them everyday during our lifetime.