09 September is a special day in German history. An especially sad chapter was written on 09 and 10 November 1938. Not only were synagogues and Jewish shops all over the then German Reich set on fire and destroyed, also thousands of Jews were abused, arrested or killed. The discrimination of German Jews since the seizure of control of the National Socialists became now a systematic persecution. Until today, the so-called “(Reichs-)Kristallnacht” (often used in international context, but a rather controversial term) or “Reichspogromnacht” is a symbol for the endless number of crimes against humanity that were committed by Hitler’s government and his followers.
We are helping many clients with their Jewish research in Germany. No matter how much you know about the Holocaust, it is always especially horrible and emotional to follow single family histories during this time - All the more important to maintain a social awareness and to commemorate especially individual fates. Since the year 2000, the project “Stolpersteine” (stumbling stones) of the artist Gunter Demnig helps to remember. In Munich there are no Stolpersteine on public grounds. However, since July 2018 there is an alternative, the so-called “Erinnerungszeichen” (reminder signs).
Stolpersteine no thanks? Why there is an alternative in Munich
The 9.6 x 9.6 cm Stolpersteine are consciously placed within the sidewalk in front of the buildings that were the persecuted people’s last addresses of choice. In October 2018 the 70,000th Stolperstein was placed in Frankfurt/Main. They can be found in more than 1,000 places and cities and in more than 20 countries throughout Europe.
However, there is resistance regarding the project. One example is the debate in Munich. After protests of members of the Jewish community, amongst them the quite prominent Charlotte Knobloch, the city decided in 2004 to refuse permission to the installations on public ground. Their opponents perceive the Stolpersteine as disrespectful, amongst other things because they are exposed to the road dirt and are trodden on. Two stones were removed subsequently. In 2015, it was again decided not to allow the Stolpersteine on public ground. This decision was backed by a ruling of the Bavarian Higher Administrative Court in December 2017.
This means, there are no Stolpersteine on public ground in Munich. Due to the efforts of the Initiative Stolpersteine für München e.V. (initiative Stolpersteine for Munich) there are however several stones on private ground.
Since July 2018, there is also a unique way of commemoration in Munich that is however similar to the Stolpersteine project. The so called „Erinnerungszeichen“ by the Munich designer Kilian Stauss are plaques and steles that are placed in front of the last residence of the concerned persons. A coordination unit at the city archive is responsible for conducting the project. One of the first commemoration steles was for Siegfried and Paula Jordan, whose Stolpersteine were removed in 2004 after the city decided against the Project.
The new commemoration plaques are 72 cm long. Up to five gold-plated square-shaped plaques (12 x 12 cm) can be attached. The commemoration steles (6 x 6 cm) are 186 cm high and can hold up to 12 gold-plated three-dimensional sleeves. In contrast to the Stolpersteine project it is possible, if available, to show a picture of the persecuted person. One specification of the project was that it should enable the commemoration at eye level.
The new project however did not end the debate.
In any manner, we think it is important to display the individual fates of the persecuted people in public space in order to invite commemoration in everyday life. Therefore, we are always happy, to help researching and possibly filing applications for the Stolpersteine or Erinnerungszeichen projects within our services.