Idea: Günter Demming, Berlin, Germany (Photo: Monika Saczyńska, October 13, 2010) / Rome, Italy (Photo: Monika Saczyńska, October 22, 2011)
The inspiration for the Stolpersteine project was an event related to an earlier project by Günter Demming. In Cologne, in 1990 the artist marked with chalk the route that Cologne Roms and Sinti were led to the place of deportation. Three years later, when he walked the same path again a woman he met on the way told him that no Roms or Sinti had ever lived in that district. That event inspired the artist to create the lasting memorial signs around the city.
The first Stolperstein was laid by Günter Demming in 1997 in Kreuzberg (a district in Berlin). Today, it is already a big project, in which often local communities, schools are engaged. The artist still watches over the project by approving the laying of the new stones based on the provided documentation.
The project aims to restore the memory of the victims of Nazism, including Jews, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, deserters, people with disabilities, members of political parties. Usually stones are laid in the vicinity of the place where the commemorated person lived. The individual stones are inscribed with first name and surname, date of birth, date of deportation or exile, death date and place, but not the reason why the person was persecuted.
From the very start the project aroused controversy because of the placement of stones in the pavement. According to the Charlotte Knobloch, President of Central Council of Jews in Germany, form of the project is not entirely proper, because it brings to mind trampling the memory of the victims.
The number of stones in Stolpersteine project has already exceeded 20 000. Memorial Stones are located on the sidewalks of many cities in Germany and also in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Poland, among others, Wrocław and Słubice.
Martyrdom is not asking for thousands of giant monuments. It is sufficient human memory. Monuments for alleged “martyrs” can be quickly removed, and in the memory of people will nothing remain.