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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: With ‘Stolpersteine,’ Germany shows how to acknowledge atrocity

Stolpersteine
“Stolpersteine,” or stumbling blocks, on a cobblestone sidewalk in Berlin.
(Hans-Dieter Rutsch)

To the editor: I’d like to share my own experiences with the Stolpersteine project in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. (“My father fled Nazi Germany. His homeland remembers him with a marker inscribed ‘Here lived,’” Opinion, Aug. 25)

Last year, during a trip with our rabbi to Berlin, my husband and I saw many of the memorial “stumbling stones” in the pavement, and they are just as Alina Tugend describes: unobtrusive but scattered everywhere, for all to stumble across.

Several years ago, a friend had two stones for her grandparents placed in front of their former residence in Berlin. We found the building and the stones and said a memorial prayer, and just as we were finishing, a resident welcomed us “home” and invited us into his apartment. We shared with him the story of the people who were memorialized, and he expressed the deepest of gratitude for being told something about them.

It was such a moving encounter that I decided to begin the process of researching and assembling the information necessary to place Stolpersteine for relatives of my own who were caught in the Holocaust. This past May I returned to Europe with some family members to dedicate four Stolpersteine on a day none of us will ever forget.

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Leonie Kramer, Laguna Beach

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To the editor: As an immigrant from Germany, I am aware of and support the placement of Stolpersteine. I think that two remarks are in order.

First, those stones are a bone of contention in Germany today. In Munich, Germany’s second-largest city, which depicts itself as tolerant and cosmopolitan, those small plaques are not allowed to be laid on public ground.

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Second, I respectfully disagree with Tugend’s comment that the U.S. is “far behind ... in recognizing and acknowledging our country’s history.” Ever since I came here in 2014, I have been amazed by the ongoing debates about racism, inequality and possible ways to overcome them. To me, these debates are one of the most important features of this country and are signs that American democracy is alive and well.

In Germany, there are stumbling stones and not much else. This helps explain why far-right legislators now sit almost in every regional parliament and are expecting to gain the largest share of votes in two east German states in elections on Sept. 1.

Michael Esser, Los Angeles

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To the editor: To remember is to nourish our souls. The memories may not be pleasant ones, but they are what keeps our souls and hearts full and throbbing.

Tugend reinforced this in her account of visiting the Stolpersteine left on the ground to honor and memorialize those who perished or were driven from their homes by the Nazis.

I cried after reading Tugend’s piece, but I am a much better and fuller person to remember those events rather than to have erased them. I am the compilation of my memories. Thank you, Ms. Tugend, for reminding me.

Linda Levine, Santa Monica


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