First 'Stolperstein' Holocaust memorial laid outside Europe

If you look down on the sidewalk in Germany, you might spot small brass plaques remembering Jewish victims of Nazism. The project's creator was in Argentina to see the project unrolled for the first time outside Europe.

A German school in Argentina on Monday became the first site outside Europe to host a Stolperstein memorial to the victims of Nazi persecution.

The brass plaques, known as stumbling stones, are seen throughout Germany, particularly in Berlin, and most commonly commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust. They are often placed outside the last freely-chosen homes of victims, usually headed by a "Here lived," "Here worked" or "Here taught."

Read more: Creator of the largest Holocaust memorial turns 70, but his life work continues

The German school was founded in response to the Nazification of German schools in the city

The Stolperstein project is the work of artist Gunter Demnig, who embarked on it in 1992. Demnig originally tried to place the 10x10 centimeter (4x4 inch) brass plaques on the walls of the buildings, but struggled to obtain permission from their owners. Instead he would obtain permission from councils and place them on the ground.

Germany | 12.05.2016

As a result, passers-by have to bend down to read the inscription, something which has become seen as a "symbol of respect" for the victims.

Demnig has laid about 61,000 of the discrete plaques in the footpaths of more than 1,200 European towns but until Monday the project had never left the continent.

Read more: 20 years of 'Stolpersteine'

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Dachau

The Nazi regime opened the first concentration camp in Dauchau, not far from Munich. Just a few weeks after Adolf Hitler came to power it was used by the paramilitary SS "Schutzstaffel" to imprison, torture and kill political opponents to the regime. Dachau also served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi camps that followed.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Wannsee House

The villa on Berlin's Wannsee lake was pivotal in planning the Holocaust. Fifteen members of the Nazi government and the SS Schutzstaffel met here on January 20, 1942 to plan what became known as the "Final Solution," the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German-occupied territory. In 1992, the villa where the Wannsee Conference was held was turned into a memorial and museum.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Bergen-Belsen

The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lower Saxony was initially established as a prisoner of war camp before becoming a concentration camp. Prisoners too sick to work were brought here from other concentration camps, so many also died of disease. One of the 50,000 killed here was Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who gained international fame posthumously after her diary was published.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Buchenwald Memorial

Buchenwald near the Thuringian town of Weimar was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany. From 1937 to April 1945, the National Socialists deported about 270,000 people from all over Europe here and murdered 64,000 of them.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Nazi party rally grounds

Nuremberg hosted the biggest Nazi party propaganda rallies from 1933 until the start of the Second World War. The annual Nazi party congress as well as rallies with as many as 200,000 participants took place on the 11-km² (4.25 square miles) area. Today, the unfinished Congress Hall building serves as a documentation center and a museum.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Memorial to the German Resistance

The Bendlerblock building in Berlin was the headquarters of a military resistance group. On July 20, 1944, a group of Wehrmacht officers around Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg carried out an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler that failed. The leaders of the conspiracy were summarily shot the same night in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, which is today the German Resistance Memorial Center.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Hadamar Euthanasia Center

From 1941 people with physical and mental disabilities were killed at a psychiatric hospital in Hadamar in Hesse. Declared "undesirables" by the Nazis, some 15,000 people were murdered here by asphyxiation with carbon monoxide or by being injected with lethal drug overdoses. Across Germany some 70,000 were killed as part of the Nazi euthanasia program. Today Hadamar is a memorial to those victims.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Holocaust Memorial

Located next to the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was inaugurated sixty years after the end of World War II on May 10, 2005, and opened to the public two days later. Architect Peter Eisenman created a field with 2,711 concrete slabs. An attached underground "Place of Information" holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Memorial to persecuted homosexuals

Not too far from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, another concrete memorial honors the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The four-meter high monument, which has a window showing alternately a film of two men or two women kissing, was inaugurated in Berlin's Tiergarten on May 27, 2008.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Sinti and Roma Memorial

Opposite the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, a park inaugurated in 2012 serves as a memorial to the 500,000 Sinti and Roma people killed by the Nazi regime. Around a memorial pool the poem "Auschwitz" by Roma poet Santino Spinelli is written in English, Germany and Romani: "gaunt face, dead eyes, cold lips, quiet, a broken heart, out of breath, without words, no tears."

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

'Stolpersteine' - stumbling blocks as memorials

In the 1990s, the artist Gunther Demnig began a project to confront Germany's Nazi past. Brass-covered concrete cubes placed in front of the former houses of Nazi victims, provide details about the people and their date of deportation and death, if known. More than 45,000 "Stolpersteine" have been laid in 18 countries in Europe - it's the world's largest decentralized Holocaust memorial.

'Never Again': Memorials of the Holocaust

Brown House in Munich

Right next to the "Führerbau" where Adolf Hitler had his office, was the headquarters of the Nazi Party in Germany, in the "Brown House" in Munich. A white cube now occupies its former location. A new "Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism" opened on April 30, 2015, 70 years after the liberation from the Nazi regime, uncovering further dark chapters of history.

The Stolperstein was laid at the Pestalozzi School in Buenos Aires to honor its role as a refuge for those persecuted by National Socialism.

"The school gave me a sense of security and made the trauma of exile a lot easier," the plaque reads.

The quote belongs to Margot Aberle Strauss from Hamburg who, in 1938 and at the age of 10, fled Nazi Germany to Argentina with her Jewish family and entered the 5th grade of the Pestalozzi school. Between 1933 and 1945, about 35,000 German Jews and other persecuted people fled to Argentina. The school became a home for hundreds of Jewish children.

Read more: Munich decides against commemorative cobblestones for Nazi victims

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"It's an exception: we usually want to mark the places where the Nazi crimes and persecution began, but we think it's also very important to focus on the places where the people who had to leave their countries were located," Anna Warda, a leading member of the Stolperstein project, said in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE.

German ambassador Jürgen Mertens said at the laying ceremony that the plaque recognized the school as "a place of arrival, reception and shelter for the victims." The Pestalozzi School was founded in 1934 as an alternative to the existing German schools in Argentina, which had become connected to the Nazis.


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aw/rc (dpa, EFE)