Thursday, May 16, 2024

Stolpersteine in Stuttgart

Ein Stein. Ein Name. Ein Mensch.

A few days ago I read in our local paper that the artist Gunter Demnig himself would be in Stuttgart today to lay eleven Stolpersteine in several different locations. At one of those locations, Uhlandstraße 14A, he would be laying six Stolpersteine, two of which were sponsored by students at the Stuttgart High School, an American school on Patch Barracks.

Since hearing about Demnig’s art initiative quite a few years ago, I have looked for the Stolpersteine and told guests and student groups about them. Biographical information is available online about most of the people commemorated by the Stolpersteine, as is fitting to Demnig’s goal that the victims of the Nazi regime not be forgotten. “One stone. One name. One person.”

I arrived early, as I am wont to do, and just as the organizer (Frau Bouché from the Initiative Stolpersteine Stuttgart) started to ask if I was part of the group expected, the American students arrived. I snapped some photos from the background and let their chaperone know who I was, that I was there privately and wouldn’t post photos of the students anywhere. However I gave her my card and said if she emails me, I can send her any photos I take.

Frau Bouché spoke to the students a bit and told them Demnig would probably dash off quickly after laying the stones because he had more to do after these. I told the chaperone I am not shy about asking for certain photos in situations like this, and if I saw an opportunity I would ask Demnig to pose for a photo with the students.

I knew Demnig as soon as he arrived, as he is quite recognizable. He briefly greeted a few people and got to work. 

Gunter Demnig

The Stolpersteine Demnig laid at this spot were for Isak and Johanna Falk, their nearly-adult children Fritz and Carry, and Meier Rosenstein and his daughter Frieda Süß-Schülein.

After he finished he packed up his tools and buckets and I sidled up to him and asked if he’d pose with the American students because they were the sponsors of the two Stolpersteine for the Falk children. He graciously agreed and I got several nice photos. I can’t post them because of obvious reasons and because I told the chaperone I would not.

After Demnig drove off, the ceremony began in which Frau Bouché told us in English about the six individuals and their story. One of the students spoke very good German, welcoming those gathered and introducing her group, and another student read a poem she’d written for the occasion. 

The last thing Frau Bouché told us was that in 1943 her parents and older sister had moved into this very apartment where the Falk family had lived before being forced to leave this home in 1939 to take up positions in a Jewish nursing home near Heilbronn. She said her mother knew a Jewish family had lived there and it saddened her, but they did not ask what had happened to them. It clearly meant something special to Frau Bouché that she has been able to honor the Falk family in this way.

For more information about Gunther Demnig's Stolperstein initiative, click on the links above or here. To learn the stories of the people named on Stolpersteine in your area or ones you come across on your travels, google the person's name along with the word "Stolperstein." It may also help to add the name of the town in which the Stolperstein is found.

Stolpersteine continue to be laid in communities across 21 countries in Europe. It costs €132 to sponsor a stone, which is usually placed in front of the individual's last known residence. 

The 100,000th Stolperstein was laid in 2023.

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