Small Memorials

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Stolpersteine or Stumbling Stones

In front of a house located at 149 Bismarckstrasse in Hamburg, Deutschland, there is a stone fixed permanently into the concrete sidewalk. This stone carries five brass plates,  engraved with the names of a Jewish family who once lived there.

The names of the Jews who once lived there are Leonhard Falck, Hedwig Cibulski Falck, Hans Siegfried Falck, Erich Falck, and Gerhard Falck. Gershon (Gustav) Cibulski and Rosa Markus Cibulski lived on Lindenallee. They were the parents of Hedwig and her sister and three brothers. They too are now commemorated by a “Stolperstein,” as are thousands of German, Dutch, Czech, Italian, and  French Jews. Even in Finland there are “Stumbling Stones,” as Austrian Jewish refugees were handed over to the Germans by the Finnish government. Six Irish Jews are now commemorated with “Stolpersteine.” These Irish born Jews had moved to the European continent before the Second World War. There are “Stolpersteine” in Luxembourg. In some German cities, politicians place “Stolpersteine” on public property. Some stones were located on private property. There are numerous German towns in which the citizens refused the installation of “Stolpersteine,” as they pretend that they had not murdered any Jews, despite the evidence  that their Jewish neighbors were murdered.

There were three  million Jews in Poland in 1939 when the German army invaded that country. Poland therefore became the country which saw more Jews murdered in Polish-German murder camps than any other country. Indeed, there were a tiny number of Christians in Poland who helped a few Jews escape the Nazi murder machine. However, the vast majority of Polish Christians applauded the mass murder of the Jewish population, while some Christians worked in the death camps and helped kill Jews. Even after the German army had been defeated and no Germans were still on Polish territory, Polish Christians murdered Jews who had somehow survived the death camps.

In Germany, there are some towns and cities whose newspapers support the installation of “Solpersteine” and who invite survivors as well as relatives of the victims to visit these communities.

It was in 1939 when the German artist Gunter Demnig first planted a Stolperstein in front of the city hall of Cologne (Köln). Demnig thereby contradicted the popular German excuse for mass murder of the German Jews. Several recent public opinion polls show that the majority of Germans today claim that they themselves were the victims of the Nazi regime since the allies and the Russians bombed and destroyed German cities and towns in 1945. Many Germans claim that Jews who complain about Auschwitz or seek compensation for the Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust are greedy Jews wanting to make money. Evidently most Germans find nothing wrong with stealing the property of murdered Jews.

In 2008, Dörte Franke produced a Documentary about “Stolpersteine.”

The artist Gunter Demnig has become a true friend of the Jewish people and a man who should be included in the Jerusalem memorial to “Righteous Gentiles,” for he made it impossible for the German population to claim it knows nothing about the greatest crime in the history of man.

Shalom u’vracha.

  Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).

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