Europe. The Shoah. One of the first thing Nazis did when they rounded up their Jewish victims was to dehumanize them by replacing their names with numbers.
Now Germany, as well as other countries whose Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, are giving back to the Jewish people, as well as other victims of the Holocaust, their names.
Stolpersteine, or Stumbling Stones, are being installed on streets and avenues throughout Europe as a personal memorial to individual Holocaust victims.
The 10 sq-cm brass stolpersteine plaques were created by German Artist Gunter Demnig.
Each plaque bears the name, date of birth and details of the victim's deportation and extermination. Passers-by that stumble over the plaques take a moment to recall the person mentioned on each tablet. Each stolpersteine is installed on the street on which the person lived before the war. More than 20,000 stolpersteine can be seen across Europe in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands.
(If you have loved ones from one of the countries listed above who perished in the Holocaust, you can apply for stolpersteine in their memory by contacting http://www.stolpersteine.com .)
"This is my life's work. I will continue for as long as I'm able," Gunter Demnig told the media. "Giving names back to the dead is a way of keeping them alive."
Memorializing Her Grandparents
Today May 2, 28 Nissan, Israel commemorates Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. (The date, usually 27 Nissan, has been delayed by a day to begin memorial events on Sunday night instead of Motzei Shabbat.)
As sirens sounded nationwide, each person remembered his loved ones and the six million Jewish victims of Nazi extermination in his own way.
Efrat resident Mirjam Orbach, a life coach practicing in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion, is a second generation Holocaust survivor. Her parents each spent their younger years running from country to country to avoid the Nazis until they ended up in displaced persons camps at the end of the war. They were met and were married in Berne, Switzerland in 1945, traveled to Holland (where Mirjam was born), then Uruguay, Brazil and finally Israel.
Mirjam's grandparents, Moshe and Marie Horowitz, did not survive.
They had been residents of the medieval German town Magdeburg since the beginning of the 20th Century. Her grandfather, HY”D was deported from Magdeburg to Poland in 1938, and then perished in 1942 in the Tarnow Ghetto. Her grandmother, HY”D, fled to Belgium in 1940, but was deported in 1942 to Riga, and then killed in 1944 in Stutthof Concentration Camp.
Recently the town remembered the Horowitzes with two special stolpersteine memorial stones in their names.
Mirjam and her two sisters were invited by the Magdeburg Municipality to return to the city for a ceremony in their grandparents' memory. The stones, installed near the address where they had lived, gave the details of their lives, deportations and deaths at the hands of the Nazis.
Marie Horowitz was one of ten siblings. She was the only sibling who did not survive the Holocaust.
When Mirjam and her sisters were invited to Germany, they were also asked to prepare biographies of their grandparents. In order to do this, Mirjam had to interview Horowitz family members all over Israel, which reconnected her with relations she had never known.
"The Horowitzes are an enormous family, dispersed in the 17th century all over Poland," Mirjam said. "The entire experience was very moving, including doing all the research of the family here in Israel."
While delving into her family’s past, Mirjam made a startling discovery. Necha Horowitz, o’h, one of her great-grandmothers died in 1925 in Magdeburg. The sisters became determined to visit the grave of their great-grandmother.
Since Germans are so detail oriented, the exact location of their great-grandmother's grave was recorded and given to the family. So, while Mirjam and her sisters, Saba Gita Cozer and Noomi Mundsztuk, were in Magdeburg they went to the Jewish cemetery in search of their ancestor's grave. But the cemetery was in a deplorable state, Mirjam said. Many of the tombstones were lying on the ground, and there were no markers to help find the specific location.
After wandering through the old cemetery for quite a long time, Mirjam and her sisters almost gave up looking for the grave, when suddenly she noticed a "Hei", "Vav" and then a "Resh" on a moss-covered tombstone. "It could have been Horn," Mirjam said excitedly, "but it could also have been Horowitz. And with my hand, I tried to clean off the green stuff covering it, and I saw it – Necha Horowitz."
Mirjam and her sisters were stunned. They surrounded the resting place of their great-grandmother and said tehillim. "I imagine that since the 1930s, nobody visited that kever and no one said tehillim there," Mirjam said.
The three sisters found tremendous consolation at their great-grandmother’s kever. Strengthened, they continued on to the stolpersteine memorial ceremony for Necha's son and daughter-in-law, Moshe and Marie Horowitz, HY”D.
More than 50 members of the Magdeburg community attended the memorial, along with the head of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and other officials.
Curious passers-by stopped to watch the ceremony. Some even noted that they had come across stolpersteine in other locations.
Moshe and Marie Horowitz were survived by their three children, all of whom survived the Holocaust. Today, bli ayin hara, their descendants number 48 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Watch Mirjam Orbach’s recollections on Voices TV, click here - http://www.voices-magazine.com/index.php?page=inside_page&id=183&id=183.