Casual Sidewalk Berlin 2008
Back in 2008, during my first visit to Berlin, a lot of turmoil was raging within my unsettled mind due to the strange phenomena I was experiencing, as nicely described (if I may say so myself) in my 3rd post on this blog. The collision of my biased history and personal (or Jewish) prism of the events I had learned about all my years now confronted, for the first time, the aftermath of the war that had demolished so many buildings in Berlin. I walked around mesmerized, gazing at the shining replaced rooftops and the various architectural amputations of building sections, some left erect, others demolished irreparably.
Then, in a casual moment while sipping coffee, my gaze shifted downward, and there they were - copper plates with engraved text. A subtle yet poignant reminder of my people's persecution. This triggered a guilt trip within me. How easily had I tried to find a compromise to our history? Just a few buildings away, and I was attempting to make sense of the past. Why was I striving to build this rational framework in my head during this particular visit? Maybe the idea of ״global reconciliation״ was something I shouldn't rush into? I truly needed to delve into and resolve this issue.
Suddenly, these little plates seemed to be everywhere! What an amazing project, I thought! Anyone I asked told me that these plates tell the story of Jews who were banished, expelled, or thrown out of these homes, sent to die. That's how I was introduced to the STOLPERSTEINE project. I would say that approximately 9 out of 10 people would say that. But then, I heard another answer, a more general one, on their website: The artist Gunter Demnig remembers the victims of National Socialism by installing commemorative brass plaques in the pavement in front of their last address of choice.
That was a very interesting shift in perspective, wasn't it? Any persecuted victims are part of this project, if they meet the criteria! Once again, the feeling of being part of a bigger persecution is, as pointless as it may sound, slightly comforting, or as the Hebrew proverb goes, "Many troubled make half a consolation." Another version of this (the less flattering one) goes: "The trouble of many is the comfort of fools," and that one works for me too.
Back to this great project by the artist Gunter Demnig, I decided to ask them what was the first stone ever placed in this project, which by now, to this day, has reached 1,200 pieces.
The answer, as you can imagine comforted the fool in me...
Dear Mr Zaslansky,
The first stones were laid in Cologne on the 4th of January 1995 in front of Thieboldsgasse 88. They remind on Romanies (Sinti and Roma) that had been deported. Because the relatives were afraid of discrimination the stones are anonymous.
See our database at www.nsdok.de (Projekte / Stolpersteine) or follow this link: http://www.museenkoeln.de/ns-dokumentationszentrum/default.aspx?s=1202&stid=877&str=Thieboldsgasse 88 - Köln&buchstabe=T
That got me thinking about appropriation...as if things weren't bbad enough, we need to auto-isolate ourselves? to keep the spot light on us, and only us? what about some fools relief for the least ?
This gave me more justification to my idea to rise up, above our own tragedy, larger the scale of catastrophe, make new allies. it is the people of the light against the people of the dark.
Always was, and always will be.
Don't believe them...don't letting violent perpetrators prioritise their persecution steps, will eventually reach your circle too. Widen the circle - Either sharing with all, or just in line for the grill. And try avoiding grouping...this method of bundling groups does save time...but sure misses the point.
That made me contemplate the concept of appropriation. As if things weren't terrible as it was, do we need to auto-isolate ourselves? To keep the spotlight solely on us and no one else? ...What about some fools relief for the least ?
This provided more validation for my idea to rise above our own tragedy, to expand the scale of catastrophe, and to "forge new alliances". In a way, I guess a bit like Salman Rushdie's book "Haroun and the sea of stories" it comes down to people of light against the people of darkness. Always has been and always will be.
Don't believe them. Don't allow violent perpetrators to dictate the order of their persecutory actions. Eventually, those steps will encroach upon your circle too. Expand the circle - find the common ground each time, or allow to be divided for what ever reason and wait in line for your turn on the grill...And avoiding grouping - which is the method of 'lumping together various groups' may save time...but it certainly misses many points along the process.
Jewish victims of Persecution
One reason for misinterpreting this powerful project idea might stem from the fact that the majority of the plates commemorate Jewish persecution. What could be the reason behind this focus?
My speculation is that the technical criteria to be eligible to participate are understandably strict yet doable. These criteria demand substantial documentation, proof of ownership of the house, among other things, along with a cost of 120 EU per piece. Meeting these criteria necessitates efficient organization, strong archival skills, and significant financial resources or access to funding. This might inadvertently lead to the Jewish community's prominence in the project.
However, I don't want to conclude this post with such a generalization, do I? So, let's approach this observation with caution and consider it with a grain of salt.