IT was 20 years ago that German artist Gunter Demnig came up with the idea of placing brass ‘Stumbling Stones’ (Stolperstein) outside the houses of those who died during the holocaust. The latest 49 representing children have been laid in Hamburg.
The first 50 stones were laid in Berlin in May 1996 without any form of permission being given, but this is now the largest decentralised monument in the world and more than 75,000 individual stones have been laid since then in 1,200 cities across 24 European countries including Spain but not the United Kingdom.
The Spanish versions exist because although Spain was never occupied, an estimated 7,000 Republicans fled to France following Franco’s victory and were eventually caught by the Nazis and were either handed over to the Vichy regime, or deported to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.
These brass plates do become discoloured over time and in Germany newspapers and social media suggest that people with these memorials outside their houses should polish them on the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) each April.
Much research has now been undertaken into the number of women and children who were placed in labour camps around Hamburg and it transpires that more than 400 eastern European children aged from 10 to 14 died in the labour camp and it is hoped that eventually every one will be named and honoured.
Hamburg-based psychologist Margot Löhr has been instrumental in researching the history of those children and their mothers who were forced to work for the Nazis and she detailed one story concerning a four-year-old child who survived the labour camp to record her memory of the brutal life they led.
Nadeshda was sent to the Hohenzollernring camp with her parents and 14-year-old brother who all worked in the factory and she recalled that her brother had been beaten by guards for dropping a barrel that had been too heavy for him.
It is intended that these stones will continue to be laid in order to ensure that all those who were lost, be they Jewish, Gypsy, Homosexual or another persecuted minority are remembered in some small way.