In the 1990s, Gunter Demnig decided victims of the Holocaust should return to their homes, at least figuratively.
Today, more than 70,000 so-called Stolpersteine have been laid around Europe – and beyond.
As a 71-year-old man, spending more than 200 days a year travelling around Europe and beyond for his project, meeting young people, politicians and relatives of those he strives to commemorate, Demnig .
According to some it would not be a respectful manner to commemorate the victims, seeing as they are literally being walked upon, or even kicked. For that reason the southern German city of Munich decided against having the Stolpersteine. Instead, after much arguing, Munich chose to install plaques and steles across the city instead.
Demnig says he does not agree with the logic that his project means the victims are kicked over and over again.
“The Nazis were never content with kicking, they had a whole extermination and murder plan.”
And even if people did want to kick the cobblestones, they have been designed so that this action makes them “ever more shiny.”
“You can walk over them, to polish the stones even more, to preserve the commemoration, and honour them,”
The artist says he could “never” imagine stopping his Stolpersteine project. Despite being officially retired, he says he will continue.
“We need them now more than ever,”
he reasons, thinking of the rise of far-right rhetoric and populism across the world.
“Especially when some people from the AfD [far-right Alternative for Germany party] get up and say, ‘We don’t need to remember the Nazi period, that was birdshit,’ then we have to say: Now more than ever.”