Salzburg Wants Memorials

Der Standard (06/17/2007)

To Bow Before and Acknowledge the Victims
Thomas Neuhold

The artist, Demnig, engraves the inscriptions of Nazi victims into metal plaques embedded into stone and then places the stone blocks in front of the last-known residence of the victim.

Until now, Gunter Demnig, an artist from Cologne, has placed some 12,000 “Stumbling Blocks” with information engraved onto brass plates about those persecuted during the NS regime. A committee of local people wishes to implement this form of memorial also in Salzburg.

Salzburg – “A person is not forgotten until his name is forgotten.” With this motto, the artist, Gunter Demnig, from Cologne has been laying his ongoing work, “Stumbling Blocks,” ever since 1993. The concrete squares, upon which are plaques made of brass, measure about four inches. By striking  letters into the metal, Demnig engraves information about the victims of  Nazi terror into the metal plaque and then paves the concrete blocks into the sidewalk in front of the last-known place of residence or place of work of the persecuted as a form of personalized remembrance. One doesn’t physically stumble over the skillfully laid stone, one stumbles “with head and heart,” as Demnig circumscribes the goal of his work. And whoever wants to read the inscription has to inevitably bow before, thereby acknowledging  the victims.”

Twelve Thousand “Stumbling Blocks”
He has already laid some 12,000 such “stumbling blocks” – most of them in Germany, a few in Hungary and some thirty in Austria – in Braunau as well as Mödling. The concept includes all groups of victims – Jews, Roma, victims of euthanasia, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christians, Social Democrats and Communists. Demnig’s idea was born out of a feeling of “uneasiness”, which overcame him while looking at anonymous, centralized monuments. Naming a person by name is the exact opposite of the methods used by the NS, who had tattooed numbers into the prisoners of the concentration camps. Surprising detail from Demnig’s experiences until now: Against all expectations, the “stumbling blocks” have scarely been objects of vandalism. From the 12,000 placed stones, only about fifty have been splashed with paint or removed.

Dispersed Memorials
Some time after August, this form of memorial will be implemented in Salzburg. The initiative was started by an independent committee of local prominence. Among them, for example, is the writer Karl-Markus Gauß, head of the Israelite Religious Community Marko Feingold, Director of the Chamber of Labor Gerhart Schmidt as well as historians Helga Embacher and Gerd Kerschbaumer, and city councilmen from the Social Democratic and the Austrian People’s parties. Those responsible for the mandate were still able make the necessary decisions in the community council before summer, thereby preventing a repetition of previous long and agonizing debates surrounding other memorials in remembrance of Salzburg’s  NS past.

Private Sponsors
The organization of the project has been taken over by the umbrella association, Salzburger Kulturstätten. How many stones can be placed as memorials for those murdered by the Nazis depends on the people of Salzburg themselves. The entire project, amounting to 95 euros per stumbling block, will be financed entirely by private sponsors. (Notartreuhandbank AG, BLz. 31500, Account Number: 806 05 052 808).