Last spring, I spent two weeks in Germany, a country punctuated by a variety of dramatic historical monuments. Berlin’s monument landscape was particularly rich for me, as my grandmother was German, and spent time in Berlin as a young woman. I stayed in a hotel on Rosenthalerstrasse that happened to be only a few blocks from her employer in the former heart of Jewish Berlin.
I had heard about these small brass cobblestone-sized plaques, called stolperstein (or stumbling stones) created by the artist Gunter Demnig. I had seen them in photographs and read about some of the controversies around their installation and placement. Needless to say, stumbling upon them in a “native” setting was entirely disarming. I found two stolperstein in Koln, and dozens in Berlin, and found myself scanning the sidewalks for evidence of this history of deportation and disappearance.