A little less than thirty years after its launch, a gigantic project to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust has reached a new milestone: there are now more than 100,000 "memory cobblestones" inserted into the ground in Europe, recalling the destiny tragedy of the victims of Nazism.
When the German sculptor Gunter Demnig started "the Stolpersteine" (literally, stones on which one stumbles) in 1996 in Germany, he did not expect that three decades later these cobblestones would be present in more than 20 countries. Europeans.
Each of these small 10 cm square cubes bears a brass plate with the name of a victim of the Third Reich, his date of birth, that of his deportation or exile, and if known, the date of his death. death.
Inserted into the ground, in front of the former residence of the victim, these small golden cobblestones catch the eye of passers-by and encourage them to read the engraved inscription.
Last Friday, Gunter Demnig installed the 100,000th "Stolperstein" in Nuremberg, a city in southern Germany, where the German blood and honor laws were passed that disenfranchised the country's Jews.
On Tuesday, the sculptor joined the American ambassador Amy Gutmann in the picturesque city of Feuchtwangen (not far from Nuremberg) to insert eight cobblestones there paying homage to his parents, German Jews.
"As the American ambassador, daughter of Kurt Gutmann, a Jewish refugee from Feuchtwangen, I feel like I've come full circle from trauma to tribute," she said.
Still a student in 1934, Kurt Gutmann understood that he and his family could not stay in his country led by Adolf Hitler. He fled to India where his parents and five other relatives joined him to escape the Nazi extermination campaign.
He then moved to New York, where Amy Gutmann was born. "With great lucidity for a young man of 23, Kurt Gutmann, my father, immediately understood the madness into which his homeland was sinking," observed Amy Gutmann, 73. "He was a hero," she says, holding back tears.
"In recent years, she said, I learned much more about what my family lived under Nazi Germany than anything they were able to entrust to me before". Among the survivors of the Holocaust, there reigns "a wall of silence".
During the ceremony in Feuchtwangen, where a Jewish community had lived for 800 years, Amy Gutmann confided that the "Stolpersteine" did her "the honor of bringing a final touch to (her) family".
By starting the "Stolpersteine" project, Gunter Demnig wanted to raise awareness on a human scale of the horror of the Holocaust. His project contrasted with the more abstract memorial inaugurated in 2005 in central Berlin to perpetuate the memory of the six million Jewish victims exterminated by the Nazis.
The "Stolpersteine" are rooted in the Talmud, the fundamental text of Judaism which says that a person is only forgotten when his name is forgotten.
"At the origin of the project, there is no reason to rejoice", remarks Gunter Demnig. "But when I see how happy people are to see their parents' names inscribed where they lived, I think many go home with a different image of Germany."
Many descendants of Nazi victims come from abroad to insert the "memory cobblestones," which cost 130 euros ($139) to cover Demnig's expenses and are most often funded by local organizations.
The inhabitants of the residences where the victims of the Nazis lived frequently attend the inauguration ceremonies and schoolchildren often do research in history lessons on the past of the persecuted people.
The "Stolpersteine" have multiplied as the Jewish community in Germany has gradually grown, now numbering more than 200,000 people.
01/06/2023 09:50:59 - Feuchtwangen (Allemagne) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP