1910 - Abt 1942 (31 years)
||Olga Ollie Berlin |
||27 Aug 1910
||22 Ab 5670
||6 Dec 1941
- Deported from Hamburg to Riga Ghetto
||On Saturday, December 6, 1941, Nazis ordered the Wolf family onto a train. From their home in Hamburg, Germany, two-year-old Dan and his mother, Olga, and Olga's mother, Fanny Berlin, Germany, were deported to a concentration camp in Riga, Latvia, 600 miles (965 kilometers) away. There, they were killed—three out of roughly six million Jews who perished in the genocidal fury of Hitler's final solution. |
Sixty years after the D-Day invasion turned the tide of war against Hitler, the names of Dan, Olga, and Fanny have been returned to Hamburg, etched on brass plaques embedded in the sidewalk outside Eppendorfer Baum 10, where the Wolfs lived. The markers are part of a Holocaust memorial project conceived by Gunter Demnig, a 56-year-old sculptor from Cologne who became concerned that some Germans were losing sight of crimes committed in their backyards.
"You can open a book and read that the Nazis killed six million Jews, along with five million others, but you still cannot fully realize what happened," says Demnig. "But if you learn the fate of one man or one woman who lived in one particular house—it's very different."
Demnig calls his plaques stolpersteine, or stumbling stones, because pedestrians who notice them have their memories tripped: A stroll down an ordinary city street is suddenly transformed into a walk across the stage of history.
Since 1997 Demnig has installed 3,300 brass plaques in 30 German cities—and in the process has clearly struck a nerve. Students have volunteered to conduct the archival research that's required before each plaque can be etched and put in place. Who lived where? When were they born? Where did they die? Other people have requested stolpersteine for friends or family members. The price, 95 euros ($118 U.S.), barely covers the cost of a plaque's creation and installation. Despite 300 back orders, Demnig has expanded the project to Austria and France.
Yet some Germans want no part of it. According to Demnig, one man in Cologne went to court to prevent installation of Stolpersteine outside his house because, he argued, the plaques would decrease the property value by 100,000 euros. In Munich Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Israelite Congregation, objects to the stolpersteine for other reasons. "Given the fact that Jewish people have been kicked with boots in the past," she says she doesn't want to see "their names again kicked with boots and made dirty."
Despite the objections, Demnig pushes on with the project. "For some people in Israel and elsewhere the stolpersteine are the first reason they've revisited their former homes in Germany," he says. Unlike Berlin, Germany's five-acre (two-hectare) Holocaust memorial, which will capture the staggering scale of the Nazi genocide when it opens next year, the stolpersteine give mourners a place to remember an individual life.
For 28-year-old Dan Wolf—namesake and nephew of the two-year-old boy taken in 1941—his family's stolpersteine were one stop in a rediscovery of his Hamburg roots. His great-grandfather Leopold and great-granduncle, Ludwig Wolf, were part of a cabaret trio whose songs and shtick were the rage in Hamburg in the early 1900s. "My grandmother never told me I came from a long line of showbiz people," says Dan, a rap singer and actor himself.
"History feels safer when we put it in a museum," he says. "But in Germany the Holocaust happened in the streets, in the marketplace. It wasn't centralized. Any spot might be an unmarked grave."
—Alan Mairson Alan Mairson
||18 Sep 2010 |