Hide and seek in the Peter Eisenman-designed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Source: AFP
Brass pavement plaques commemorating victims of the Holocaust have been banned in Munich despite a long campaign to persuade the city where the Nazi Party was founded to face up to its past.
More than 50,000 stolpersteine
(stumbling blocks) have been installed across Germany, each recording the name of an individual outside their last known address before being killed or deported during the Second World War.
Every other major German city and a further 18 countries have allowed the small memorial plaques to be placed in public pavements. German artist Gunter Demnig started the project at the invitation of the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service founder Andreas Maislinger for the brothers Matthias and Johann Nobis at St Georgen near Salzburg in 1997.
Munich’s city council rejected the plan just before the opening yesterday of a new museum dedicated to the impact of the Nazis on Germany’s third-largest city, billed as an important step in confronting its past.
Campaigners for stolpersteine
believe the ban reflects a continued unwillingness to have a public reminder of the purge of Munich’s entire Jewish community of about 10,000 people.
Officially, Munich politicians objected to the language used to describe victims on the plaques and the idea of their names being trampled underfoot.
Politicians from Left and Right have offered to allow signs on buildings where relatives of the victim request it and the owners agree.
They are also promising a new memorial featuring the names of all the city’s Nazi victims. None of this impresses campaigners, who know how hard it is to win approval from individual residents without city support.
“I am very disappointed. I thought we had shown the city council that the support for the stumbling blocks was overwhelming,” said Terry Swartzberg, head of thestolpersteine
campaign, which has gathered 79,000 signatures.
“It was the most-supported petition in the city’s history … It is very sad to see that preconceived notions have not changed.”
A key opponent of the scheme was a former national Jewish leader, Charlotte Knobloch, who called the pavement plaques undignified.
Mr Swarztberg said: “The rest of Bavaria and the world will look at us aghast asking why this works so well everywhere else but it is so difficult for Munich.”