Munich begins swapping out ‘disrespectful’ Holocaust memorials
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Munich begins swapping out ‘disrespectful’ Holocaust memorials

New plaques replace commemorative cobblestones after complaints they are stepped on and get dirty

Illustrative image of a 'Stolperstein,' or stumbling stone, in Berlin, November 9, 2013. (AFP/Johannes Eisele)
Illustrative image of a 'Stolperstein,' or stumbling stone, in Berlin, November 9, 2013. (AFP/Johannes Eisele)

Munich on Thursday began replacing the iconic cobblestones commemorating the city’s Jews murdered by the Nazis with new memorials.

The “stolpersteine,” or stepping stones, are small brass plaques memorializing those killed in the Holocaust and are usually placed in sidewalks outside the victim’s last residence. There have been some 67,000 memorials installed in over 22 countries since the start of the project in 1992 by German artist Gunter Demnig.

Though popular among many, Munich city council’s decided in 2015 to phase out the stones amid complaints they were disrespectful, as they easily get dirty and are stepped on. That decision was backed by Bavaria’s supreme court in December.

The new gold-plated memorial plaques, which will be installed outside the last known home or workplace of the 10,000 people from the city murdered in the Holocaust, will an include an engraved portrait and details on the victims.

The first such plaque was installed Thursday to commemorate Tilly and Franz Landauer, according to Germany’s Deutsche Well public broadcaster. Franz, the brother of Bayern Munich soccer team president Kurt Landauer, died at the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands in 1943, while his wife Tilly died a year later at Auschwitz.

“It is important to me that we find forms of individual remembrance of the victims of the Nazi era in Munich,” the city’s Mayor Dieter Reiter was quoted as saying. “They are to remind us of those who were murdered and set an example. Never again.”

Charlotte Knobloch, a local Jewish leader who says the stepping stones are disrespectful, praised the installation of the new memorials.

“I am happy that we have found this positive solution after such long discussions,” said Knobloch, a former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Despite praise from Knobloch and others, the decision to replace the stones has faced pushback and been met with calls to preserve the memorials, with Deutsche Well reporting a petition against their removal has garnered 100,000 signatures.

JTA contributed to this report.

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