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Initiative Against Xenophobia: 80 "stumbling blocks" commemorate Bonn’s holocaust victims

Initiative Against Xenophobia : 80 "stumbling blocks" commemorate Bonn’s holocaust victims

The Beuel Initiative Agaist Xenophobia is drawing attention to the unassuming plaques in the pavement and using these “stumbling blocks” to remember Nazi crimes.

There are 80 brass plaques or “stumbling blocks” in Beuel; stumbling blocks that no one really stumbles over. They lie inconspicuously embedded in the pavements. The names, year of deportation and sometimes a place of death are all they reveal about the victims to whom they are dedicated. That is why the Beuel Initiative Agaist Xenophobia is telling their stories.

The meeting point for the tour is Synagogue Square on the corner of Siegfried-Leopold Straße and Friedrich-Friesen Straße. Susanne Rohde and Etta Fennekohl from the Beuel Initiative Agaist Xenophobia welcome participants in front of the memorial made from stones from the synagogue that was burnt down during the Reich’s Night of the Pogrom.

Fennekohl says it is well documented that it was Beuel citizens, and not National Socialists, who burnt down the synagogue. One participant says she even knows the names of some of the perpetrators, but not of the victims.

80 stumbling blocks

77 of the stumbling blocks are for victims of Jewish descent, three for victims of political persecution. The stumbling blocks are placed at the person’s last freely chosen place of residence, explains Rohde. At the plaques, she gives the names, age at date of death, professions and nicknames, or tells an anecdote from the lives of the victims.

According to Rohde, Ruth Kaufmann, known as Fanny, was Beuel’s youngest victim of the persecution of the Jews. She was murdered at only four years old in Sobibór in present day Poland. Her plaque lies at the corner of Friedrich-Breuer-Straße and Gottfried-Claren-Straße, next to those of her parents, Ludwig and Erna, and that of her uncle Carl.

“We can’t bring the people back to life,” says Fennekohl. However, it is important to explain about these people’s lives, says Rohde. “These people weren’t hardened victims,” she says. “They were bursting with life; they were torn from the middle of their lives.” The stories from the victims’ lives show how much was taken away from them.

“The number of victims is so great that it is impossible to understand the suffering on such a large scale. We want to give people access to the victims through personal stories.” There is also a small book about the stumbling blocks in which people’s stories are collected. The book is free and available from Bücher Bartz in Beuel.

For Ibo Ohlendorf, the value of the stones is that they create memories through action. “I think it’s very nice that people clean the stones and make them shine,” says the 76-year-old. In this way, the stones are repeatedly the focus of public attention and in people’s awareness.

The stones triggered various feelings in the Jewish community, Rohde says. “Some families don’t want their relatives to be commemorated with a stone.” However, she also recalls a conversation with Margot Barnard, a witness to the events, who decided to dedicate plaques to her parents, the Kobers, after the opening of the exhibition “Places of Remembrance in Beuel” in 2006. “She said at the time that she had now seen how a memory is also created by these stones,” explains Rhode.

(Original text: Sophia Rogalla. Translation: kc)