Stolpersteine 2: A Stumbling Stone for Luisa Lepman

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The last free residence of Luise Lepman. She lived on the upper floor.

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Translation: Here lived Luise Lepman, family name Kahn, widow of Landauer, born 1878. Deported in 1942 and murdered in Izbica

Date: May 23rd, 2015

Place: Stuttgart, Germany

Event: The laying of a Stolperstein for Luise Lepman

Man in cap: “I didn’t expect the ceremony would be so rote. He put in the stones like it was just assembly line work, just one of many.”

Jadi: “The whole point is that they’re not made in a factory. He makes every single one of them by hand.”

Man in cap: “And I didn’t know that his project began as performance art.”

Amy: “That’s how it began in Berlin. He’s been deeply involved in making Stolpersteine for over twenty years.”

Man in cap: “I’ve looked at his website. If you can get past the fact that they were all murdered, some of his subjects’ lives were pretty outrageous.” The man in the cap turns without saying goodbye and heads fast down the sidewalk.

 ***

Today I want to tell you about several remarkably modest people, and one remarkable project.

Amy Matney began as a massage patient and became a friend. She’s a charming, unassuming woman from Virginia. Just listening to her accent is to hear music.

School counsellor Amy Matney

School counsellor Amy Matney

Amy works with teenagers at the Patch Barracks high school. Last year she got her students involved in the international Stolperstein project. Started by the German artist Gunter Demnig, Stolpersteine are literally ‘Stumbling Stones’. These blocks or stones commemorate the last free place victims of the Nazi regime resided before being deported or murdered. [1]

Amy told me, “The students I counsel have every advantage. I want them to learn compassion as well. This project was a great way to get them to think about history and the world, and those less fortunate.”

For 120€ or about $140, anyone can sponsor the laying of a Stolperstein. Amy’s students went into historical archives and researched potential subjects. Once a month the students sent out a newsletter reporting the progress of their research. They chose Luise Lepman, a woman whose family had strong connections to America.

In a moving ceremony on the morning of May 23rd, Ms. Matney, the students and their families, the commander of the base and well-wishers gathered in front of the last place Luise Lepman was known to live.

Luise boarded a deportation train on April 26, 1942. Not a single one of the 285 people forced to take that train survived.

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The students talked about their experience and Susanne Bouché, the Stuttgart liaison for the Stolperstein Project, spoke.

Susanne Bouché & Amy Matney

Susanne Bouché & Amy Matney

And then, in respectful silence with no fanfare, Gunter Demnig placed the Stumbling Stone in the sidewalk. [2] I helped Amy hand out long stemmed roses. The witnesses laid them beside the stone.

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Gunter Demnig, artist and creator of the Stolperstein Project

Gunter Demnig, artist and creator of the Stolperstein Project

As Amy and I talked after the ceremony, the stranger in the ball cap came up to us. I’m not sure if we were more startled by his callous words “If you can get past the fact that they were all murdered, some of his subjects’ lives were pretty outrageous” or the complete lack of understanding the comment showed.

This is why we need projects like the Stumbling Stones, and people like Herr Demnig and Ms. Matney. [3]

NOTES: [1] After you notice the first one, you start seeing Stolpersteine everywhere. They honor the dead and remind us that we always walk with and through history. [2] Herr Demnig places each Stumbling Stone by hand. He installed three Stolpersteine in Stuttgart on May 23rd. [3]  Ms. Matney’s school will sponsor a Stolperstein each year.

To this day the city of Munich refuses to allow them to be placed.

For more information on Stolpersteine: www.stolpersteine.eu

To contact Herr Demnig directly:

Gunter Demnig
Kölner Strasse 29
D-50226 Frechen
www.gunterdemnig.de

Mobile: +49 – 177 – 20 61 858
Fax: +49 – 2234 – 809 73 97
Email: gunter(at)gunterdemnig.de

Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the images. Uwe’s photos of Stuttgart and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

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Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones

She placed her unbandaged left hand over his on the table top. “Don’t think I’m only a cynic. If I lost my faith in nations, I find huge bravery and kindness in individuals. I kept my faith – and how can that be, after what religion did to my country? But I did. I believe in God. You saved my life so I am saved again. It’s more than a woman could hope for.” She squeezed his hand. “How long do you stay in Stuttgart?”

For the first time his regret about leaving had to do with a person and not with his phobia. “I should take a train tomorrow. Actually, I’m scared to fly,” Guy admitted. “I was in a forced landing once. I’m afraid of being in another.”

“Why fear a statistic chance? Why worry about an abstraction?” Nadia’s shoulders rose and fell in the Eastern European’s shrug, a slow, weary movement that expressed the futility of every question. “Think about the poor people who are in tsunamis. Or a war zone, where real fear is to think, how do you keep walking on the street as a rocket hits somewhere near, or you hear thwack!, and the person in front of you falls down? First you think, this time it isn’t me. It took years for me to stop looking over my shoulder. Stuttgart is civilized, but even here I stumble over Stolpersteine.”

“Over what?”

“Stolpersteine.”

Guy shook his head. “Never heard of it.”

“Them. Come, I will show you. There are some up around the corner.” Nadia refused to explain further.

She insisted on paying the bill and tucked her arm in his as the two of them headed up the Königstrasse. She led him to a stop in front of a store. “What do you see?”

Guy saw Europeans out Christmas shopping, happy people laughing and drinking glühwein, store windows filled with beautifully displayed consumer goods. Was it something special about the storefront? He shifted his weight and his heel came down on an uneven spot in the cement. When he glanced down, Guy saw gold cubes embedded in the sidewalk. He squatted to get a better look. Königstrasse 60, a stone with the name of Clothilde Mannheimer, another beside it for Jakob Mannheimer.

Nadia crouched down next to him. “The Mannheimers lived in this building. They were moved by train to Theresienstadt and died in the concentration camp there,” she translated. “These are their Stolpersteine, their stumbling stones. Wherever we go, we stumble over reminders of the past. The stones make sure we don’t forget the dead, these make sure that people today can’t push the dead from our memories.”

Guy traced the imprint of the names. The little golden cubes were weightier than their size. “Are there more?”

“All over Germany. Other countries, too. The Stolpersteine groups wish to mark the last free place where the persons lived, not where they were sent. Sometimes a family asks for a stumbling block; sometimes a local group did research for victims. And Stolpersteine are for everyone. Especially the Jews, but also the Behinderte, the ones with handicaps,” she corrected herself, “the mentally slow or physically handicapped. And gypsies, Communists. All were killed or did have to leave.”

“Knowing all this it wasn’t hard for you to become a German citizen?”

She gave another slow Eastern European shrug. “I gave up my old passport a decade ago. It was less hard than I expected. My home country is one in the heart.”

A newly laid Stolperstein

A newly laid Stolperstein

– from my chapter “What A Guy” in Tsunami Cowboys. Available online at amazon.com. This link will get you there. I will post more on this extraordinary street art project shortly.

NOTES: Photo Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell.