Cobblestones commemorating murdered Jews turn a new corner

Parts of the Holocaust memorial project “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) are pictured in Berlin, Germany, January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN/MILAN (Reuters) – A German artist who is laying bronze-capped cobblestones commemorating members of families who were deported and killed by the Nazis says he can never honor all the victims of Hitler’s atrocities, but he is going to press ahead anyway.

Gunter Demnig, 72, has set the plaques, called Stolpersteine, or “stumble stones”, in 26 countries, and he laid his 75,000th such stone last month, in the town of Memmingen in southern Germany.

Demnig, from Cologne, sets the stones outside homes of victims of Nazi persecution. They aim to remind passers-by of the Nazis’ systematic persecution of ethnic and other minorities, mainly Jews, but also homosexuals, the disabled, political dissidents and Roma.

“An evangelical pastor in Cologne said to me ‘Gunter, you’ll never manage (to honor) the millions. But one can start small’. And 75,000 as a symbol is already something,” Demnig told Reuters after a trip to set more plaques in Italy.

By tying a victim’s fate to a capsule biography, the ‘stumble stones’ seek to reduce the epic scale of the Holocaust to a more comprehensible human story.

Demnig has already set stones in 26 countries – including Austria, Greece, Poland, the Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine – and plans to add Serbia to the list in August.

Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Gareth Jones

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