My church in Ostrava inhabits a unique site.  It is nearby a sizable park filled with sculptures of various kinds as well as a Holocaust memorial.  The land the building sits on was "sold" to my church for 1 Kč by the Jewish community with the agreement that the church would allow its parking lot to be used by visitors of the memorial.  Later, in speaking with a colleague, I learned that the memorial site is the location of the very first gathering and deportation of Jews in all of Europe. 

Through further conversation with this colleague, I first learned about the stolpersteineStolpersteine means "stumbling block" in German, and it is the name given to small memorials created by artist Gunter Demnig.  These understated memorials consist of square gold plates which are integrated with the pavement or cobblestones in front of residences of Jews, homosexuals, resistant Christians and others who opposed the Nazis.  I have so far seen six of these stolpersteine in my city, and during my time in Olomouc I found seven more.

After learning of these little memorials, I was jolted upon my first encounter of them, pausing in the haunting severity of their implication.  These plates point to an absence, and the more I find, the more I think of the individuals and communities lost during that tragic period.  I find the simplicity and subtlety of these memorials exactly right.  The pang of guilt I feel when suddenly seeing these plates at my feet is part of the experience of the memorial as the viewer becomes complicit in the obscuring or the oppressing.  I haven't photographed all of the stolpersteine that I have found, but below you can see some of them.

 Stolpersteine in Olomouc

Two of the Stolpersteine in Ostrava


Popular Posts