Blog Stolpersteine: stumbling blocks of memory Questions surrounding Holocaust commemoration and memorialisation recently made the news as Munich City Council agreed to continue an eleven year ban on Stolpersteine, a form of Holocaust memorial. In response we explore the history and development of these memorials and place them within the wider context of Holocaust commemoration. Since 1945 Holocaust memorials and monuments have changed in terms of form and function. As the meanings of the Holocaust are, according to historian James E. Young, ‘ever-evolving’ so memorials and monuments have responded accordingly. From the grand-scale Monument to the Ghetto Heroes commemorating those involved in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to the more abstract countermonument Aschrottbrunnen Fountain in Kassel, the face of Holocaust memorialisation has changed considerably since 1945. Stolpersteine, literally translated as ‘stumbling block’, are just one form of Holocaust memorial. These four-by-four inch brass plaques emerged in the mid-1990s and can now be found in more than 1,000 European countries. Simple in design they are engraved with the name, year of birth and death (if known) and sometimes a brief line about an individual who was murdered in the Holocaust. By engraving the name of each individual the memorial acts as an antithesis to the anonymity of the concentration camp system. Image: Stolpersteine dedicated to Edith Stein who was murdered in Auschwitz on 9th August 1942. Source: Pixabay.The blocks are often placed on the ground outside the individual’s last known home. As they tend to be sunken into the ground, the blocks are not just translated as ‘stumbling blocks’, they physically act like them too. However, they can also be found in other locations. For example, there are a number of Stolpersteine outside the headquarters of the Jewish Community in Hamburg, an organisation that oversees Jewish affairs, as well as outside a number of former Jewish orphanages also in Hamburg. The concept behind Stolpersteine originated with the German artist Gunter Demnig. Demnig was stirred to create a type of memorial that publicly confronted the Holocaust after having a conversation with a woman who was unaware that Gypsy communities had lived in her neighbourhood before the Nazi occupation. Part of this process of confrontation involves engagement with the local community. For example, whilst conducting research, Demnig has worked with local schools, thereby engaging with the next generation. Stolpersteine, therefore, aim to facilitate education of the Holocaust through discussion and reflection.Image: Stolpersteine in Hockenheim. Source: Pixabay. Despite the thinking behind the concept there has been some opposition to the Stolpersteine as exemplified by the decision by the Munich City Council to extend the eleven year ban. Critics argues that despite their intentions the stones desecrate the memory of Holocaust victims because people will physically walk over them on a day to day basis. Despite such opposition Stolpersteine are continuing to be commissioned and the 50,000th example was laid earlier this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. To read about the memorials housed in our Memorial Gardens please visit our Memorial Gardens page. Sources:Imort, Michael 'Stumbling Blocks as Decentralized Memorial', in Niven, B and Paver, C et al (eds.) Memorialization in Germany from 1945. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Stolpersteine in Berlin 'About Stolpersteine', Stolpersteine in Berlin [Online]. Available at: http://www.stolpersteine-berlin.de/en/stolpersteine (Accessed 27 August 2015). The Independent 'Holocaust memorial plaques: Are Munich's 'stumbling stones' a tribute to the Nazi victims - or an insult?' The Independent [Online]. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/holocaust-memorial-plaques-are-munichs-stumbling-stones-a-tribute-to-the-nazis-victims--or-an-insult-10428616.html (accessed 27 August 2015).Young, James E (1994) The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning: Yale University Press.