Munich installs new Holocaust memorial plaques | News | DW | 26.07.2018
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Munich installs new Holocaust memorial plaques

Munich has unveiled its new memorial system recalling thousands killed by the Nazis. The plaques will exist alongside well-known but controversial commemorative cobblestones, which are banned on Munich public ground.

Munich inaugurated its new Holocaust remembrance memorial system on Thursday, unveiling vertically-displayed plaques that pay tribute to victims of the Nazi regime.

Created by Munich designer Kilian Stauss, the new memorial system remembers the 10,000 Munich men, women and children murdered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945, the City of Munich wrote in a statement.

Up to 200 plaques are expected to be installed across the city. They will join existing commemorative cobblestones, known as "stolpersteine" or "stumbling stones" in English, whose controversial placement in the ground had led to the development of the new memorial system in Munich.

Read more: Auschwitz: Evolution of a death camp and Holocaust memorial

Plaques on walls and columns

The memorial plaques can be made in two variants and will be placed outside the last known home or workplace of the victim. The first is a 12x12-centimeter (5x5-inch) plaque made of gold-plated stainless steel, which will have the victim's details and a grid-like portrait engraved into it, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

If the sign cannot be attached, because the house owner does not agree or because there is no suitable place on the wall, for example, a stainless steel post with a gold-plated sleeve can be put up instead.

Read more: Why Munich needs a new Nazi documentation center

Tilly and Franz Landauer were the first Holocaust victims to be commemorated on Thursday. Franz — brother of well-known Bayern Munich football club president Kurt Landauer — died in 1943 in Kamp Westerbork in the Netherlands. His wife Tilly was murdered in 1944 in Auschwitz.

"It is important to me that we find forms of individual remembrance of the victims of the Nazi era in Munich," Mayor Dieter Reiter said. "They are to remind us of those who were murdered and set an example. Never again," he added.

Cobblestones criticized

With the installation of the new plaques, Munich is departing from the well-known "stumbling stones" cobblestone memorial system, which can be found in cities across Germany and Europe.

The cobblestone memorials have been criticized for being disrespectful as they are embedded in the ground. 

The gold-colored monuments are placed into the pavement in front of the last-known home or workplace of a Holocaust victim. The person's name, birthdate and fate are engraved into the block, which sits just above the street level.

Munich decided against installing the stones in 2004. Instead, the city decided in 2015 to proceed with the new plaque memorial system. Bavaria's supreme court backed up the decision in a ruling in 2017.

The existing cobblestones in Munich are embedded exclusively on private ground.

Read more: Opinion: Should school trips to Auschwitz be mandatory in Germany?

Stumbling stone memorials for Holocaust victims in Munich (picture-alliance)

Stumbling stones commemorating vicitims of the Holocaust are seen in the southeastern German city of Munich

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the regional Jewish community group, supported the new plaque system, saying it was disrespectful to lay stones in the dirt as a memorial.

"I am happy that we have found this positive solution after such long discussions," Knobloch, former President of Central Council of Jews in Germany, said.

Read more: From the outside looking in

While the cobblestones had been criticized, they also have many supporters in Munich, including the group "Stolpersteine for Munich Initiative."

Terry Swartzberg, the leader of the association, launched an online petition on change.org calling for Munich to lift its ban on the pavement-level memorials. The petition has more than 100,000 signatures.

Across Germany and Europe there are more than 60,000 "stumbling stone" memorials.

Editor's note: In the original article, entitled "Munich replaces Holocaust memorial cobblestones" and published on July 26, we erroneously reported that the city of Munich would be removing the cobblestone memorials and replacing them with the new plaque memorial system. This error was due to a translation mistake in the German News Agency (dpa) source material. We accordingly corrected the article title and text to reflect that the new memorial system will not replace the cobblestones, which will remain in the ground. The German News Agency has also issued a correction.

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