Bonn The artist Gunter Demnig is laying eleven new memorial stones in Bonn. They are to commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime. Surviving relatives are coming from Paris.
They are small, inconspicuous to many and yet have an immense significance and meaning. Each of the 307 memorial stones in the Bonn city area stands for a human life and fate; a human life that was cruelly wiped out during the Nazi era.
A life such as that of Arthur Weill, who was murdered at Auschwitz on 1 April 1944. Nine family members had travelled from Paris to Bonn on Monday for the laying of his memorial stone. Since 1993, the Cologne artist Gunter Demnig has been using his project to ensure people remember the victims of the Nazi era.
Arthur Weill fled from Bonn to Strasbourg
Weill, who was originally from Alsace, last lived with his family at Brückenstraße 34, today Berliner Freiheit 36, in Bonn. After losing his job at the Tietz department store in 1933 because of aryanisation, he moved with his family first to Strasbourg and then to Bordeaux and finally fled to Dausse near Paris in 1940. On 2 March 1944, Weill and his family were arrested, taken to a transit camp in Drancy and deported to Auschwitz on 27 March. His daughter Alice and son Ernest survived the war and stayed in France.
In the 1990s, Demnig concerned himself with the deportation of Romany people. The artist laid a trail of writing to commemorate the murdered Romany people in front of the former warehouse in Cologne-Deutz that served as a satellite camp for Buchenwald concentration camp from September 1942 to May 1944. His action attracted the attention of a witness at the time. During a conversation with her, the artist realised how little she knew.
Each stone costs 120 Euros
As a result, Demnig then decided to launch the “Memorial Stone” project. “I would like to bring commemorative plaques to where the horror began,” said the Cologne artist. And the horror usually began on the doorstep of those who were murdered. Since then, he has laid more than 70,000 small, golden memorial stones in 21 countries. The first memorial stone was laid in Bonn in 2002. Since then, new ones have been added every year.
The project is coordinated and organised by the Bonn Memorial Centre. It is financed solely by donations. A memorial stone costs 120 Euro. The money goes exclusively to the artist for the creation of the memorial plaques. “In most cases, Bonn citizens or friends of the family contact us,” says Astrid Mehmel, president of the Memorial Centre.
Relatives look back without bitterness
This was also the case with Arthur Weill. A parish priest, who had been friends with Weill’s grandson Jean-Francois since 1966, contacted the Memorial Centre with his request. “The family looks back at what happened without bitterness,” explains an acquaintance. “They simply want to keep the memory of their ancestors alive.” The laying of the memorial stone had to be delayed several times because of the construction site at Berliner Freiheit. Three additional stones of the same size were laid as placeholders alongside the memorial stone for Arthur Weill. In future, Weill’s cousin Jacques Samuel, his son Pierre and Samuel’s brother-in-law, René Weill, will be remembered there. There is no date yet.
Until then, countless people will walk over Arthur Weill’s memorial stone every day. If only one takes the time to read Weill’s name, the stone will have fulfilled its function. As the artist Gunter Demnig quotes from the Talmud: “A person is first forgotten when his name is forgotten.”
(Original text: Nathalie Dreschke. Translation: kc)