Friday, June 27, 2014

Stumbling Blocks in Prague

While balancing on the cobblestones along Dhoula street in Prague, I looked down to check my step. Four four-inch brass squares glittered among the grey and white ones.

"Here lived Robert Katz, born 1901 -- deported 1942 to Terezin -- murdered at Auschwitz April 1944."

Nothing more. Nothing less. A life expressed. A tale of woe. History beneath my feet.

In German, they are called Stolpersteine or "stumbling blocks," and more than 27,000 have been laid in some 500 locations by volunteers in the 10 years since a non-Jewish artist (Gunter Demnig) first came up with a way for ordinary Germans to honor the memory of the Jews who once lived in their midst.

There are 500 Stolpersteine in the Czech Republic -- and 300 are in Prague. I took a picture of four brass squares in memory of four victims of the Nazi regime. They were lovingly lined up in a row like flowers in a garden.

I looked up to see where they might have lived and laughed. Today, the residence held fancy shops and businesses. Other people live here now, enjoying the democratic republic of the Czech people.

Monuments need not be massive. In Europe, a small cobblestone creates history every time you put down your foot.

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