"A person is first forgotten when their name is forgotten," said Gunter Demnig. The artist from Cologne aims to remember the victims of National Socialism with his Stolpersteine, or "stumbling stones." He embeds the stones in the pavement before the last house in which the person chose to live. A small plaque bears the name and the fate of each in individual.
Just one fate of many is that of Nelly Rosenbaum from Cologne. At the age of two, she was deported together with her brother Joseph and their mother Mina to Poland. In the chaos of war, the family was sent to Siberia. The mother died in a camp there in August 1941. In early 1942, Nelly died of starvation in the arms of her brother.
Nelly's brother, Joseph Rosenbaum, reached Palestine in 1943. In 2008, he visited Cologne with his wife, children and grandchildren to see the memorial stone in remembrance of his sister. The stone was laid in Alexianerstrasse 23 before a house built in the post-war period. The house in which the Rosenbaum's lived before their deportation was destroyed during the war.
A memorial stone to Mathel Moses can also be found in Cologne. She was just two years old when she and her family were loaded into one of the notorious railroad transporters in Cologne and transported to Lodz. Moses disappeared without a trace. She was probably murdered in 1942.
The fates of Sally and Alma Adler of Frankfurt are also remembered with Stolpersteine. The family was forced to leave their house at Emmerich Josef Strasse 21 - where the stones are now placed - in 1939. Just before that, Sally lost his job as a branch manager when the company which employed him was "aryanized."
Despite facing hostility and persecution, the Jewish family remained in Germany. On September 25, 1942, Alma and Sally Adler, as well as Sally's daughter Claire, were deported on one of the last transporters to Estonia and were murdered there.
Peter van Pels won't be forgotten, either, since his name appears in the diary of Anne Frank. Frank documented the time they spent together in hiding in great detail. Pels had fled from Osnabrück to Amsterdam together with his family. In her diary, Frank referred to the van Pels family as the van Daans to protect their identities.
The memorial stones to Peter von Pels and his parents are located in Osnabrück. When the family was betrayed on August 4, 1944, they were arrested by police and deported to Auschwitz. The father, Hermann van Pels, was gassed there. Mother Auguste and her son Peter were transferred to different camps. Peter died three days before the end of the war. The date of his mother's death is unknown.
Considered a "half-Jew" by the Nazis, Richard Werner was first arrested during a pogrom on the night from November 9-10, 1938 in Osnabrück. Because he came from Czechoslovakia, he was constantly accused of espionage. Werner was frequently brought into questioning and imprisoned by the Gestapo before his deportation to Auschwitz on August 5, 1944.
Arrested for "theft" on January 17, 1944, Werner was imprisoned by the Gestapo in Osnabrück until July 27, 1944, when he was deported to Auschwitz. He died on January 18, 1945, during one of the notorious "death marches" organized by the SS as they fled the Red Army.
The fact that Albert Richter had become a world champion cyclist for Germany in 1932 did little to save him. He wasn't taken in by the National Socialists and campaigned for the rights of persecuted Jews. He was arrested in 1939 during an attempt to transfer money for Jewish refugees to Switzerland. He died in mysterious circumstances while in prison in Lörrach. His memorial stone is in Cologne.
Dr. Isidor Caro decided to stay and continue with his work in Cologne. Until his deportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in June 1942, Caro was the last rabbi in Cologne's Jewish community. In Theresienstadt he supported his fellow prisoners and held religious services. Caro died in August 1943. His wife Klara survived and immigrated to the US.
Else Harmel was also a victim of the Nazi's racial ideology. As a mentally disabled girl, Harmel was murdered in the Kinderfachabteilung Waldniel (KFA) or "Specialist Childrens Unit in Waldniel" shortly before her 12th birthday. It was standard practice in the KFA for children and young people to be "kept quiet" with sleeping tablets until they starved to death.
Gunter Demnig has laid memorial stones for many other victims in more than 500 locations in Germany and numerous other European countries. The stones are intended to keep the memory of victims of National Socialism alive and to ensure that the horrendous crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi regime will never be forgotten.
But Demnig's Stolpersteine haven't been without controversy. The former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, said the idea of putting the names of murdered Jews onto stones embedded in the pavement where they are trampled by the public was "insufferable." Knobloch is the most prominent critic of the stones.
Yet for many relatives, the memorial stones are places for personal remembrance, as the photographer Gesche-M. Cordes illustrated in her book "'Stolpersteine and Relatives in Hamburg." Pictured here are 98-year-old Günther Süsskind (left) and Fred Leser, laying a rose to commemorate his mother's birthday.
Artist Gunter Demnig's Stolpersteine, or "stumbling stones," are memorials to the victims of National Socialism. Each stone remembers the fate of a different person, with more than 35,000 throughout Germany and Europe.