A Culture of Remembrance

Today is November 9. In Germany, this day is called Schicksaltag (Day of Fate). This day holds great significance in modern (and not so modern) German history; namely, it’s the day the Berlin Wall fell (1990), the day the emperor was overthrown (1918), and the day of Kristallnacht (1938).

Today, in Bielefeld, thousands have marched in protest to a Neonazi demonstration in the city. (The Neonazis march in Bielefeld every year on the 9th of November to protest the imprisonment of Holocaust denier Ursula Haverbeck. She is 91.)

The city, businesses, and people, are speaking out against Nazism. Everywhere in Bielefeld, you will find anti-nazi, pro-unity, and (my favorite) “Bielefeld ist Bunt” signs. (you can follow the events on Instagram with #bi0911)

Along with banners against racism, the crosswalks are now rainbow. Bielefeld ist bunt!

Stumbling into History

Throughout Europe, if you look closely, you might find a shimmer of brass in the cobbled streets. When you’re walking, you’ll feel a difference if you step on it. A smooth square of brass, etched with someone’s name, sitting in front of a house. These are Stolpersteine (stumbling stones), a memorial project to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.

Since 2018, 70,000 stones have been laid. Bielefeld is home to 153.

Every stone has the same information: The person’s name, birthdate, their “charges” against them, and most of the time, their date of death.

Here lived Wilhelm Kappe,
Born 1911.
Arrested May 1943
“Military Corruption”
“Political unreliability”
Self mutilation
execution 11.10.1943

It is not what is written [on the stolpersteine] which intrigues, because the inscription is insufficient to conjure a person. It is the emptiness, void, lack of information, the maw of the forgotten, which gives the monuments their power and lifts them from the banality of a statistic.

Joseph Pearson, Historian.

These stones are not just commemorating the Jewish people that were murdered during Hitler’s Reich, but any person that was marginalized by, or spoke out against the Nazi Socialist Party. Many of the stones in Bielefeld are for people that committed “high treason” and were subsequently executed.

For Richard Otto Senkel, his crime was marrying a Jewish woman. He and his wife were arrested, separated, and eventually murdered.

ARRESTED 1943. BORN 1893
MURDERED 31.8.1943

With the Stolpersteine, the people of Germany remember the horrors of the second world war and march to prevent it from happening again.

Remember when Nazis were bad?

One of my favorite parts about living in Germany is seeing how they remember their country’s darkest history. It’s a culture of remembrance, but also a culture of action. Yes, clearly there are still issues of racism and anti-semitism in Germany (and around the globe), but Bielefeld, and cities all over Germany are doing things to fight against repeating history.

What are you doing?

2 thoughts on “A Culture of Remembrance

  1. Thank you, Erin, for helping us remember these sad times in Germany and worldwide. Last Sunday, we celebrated All Saints Day at my church. Parishioners can offer names of loved ones who have died to be read before the service begins. I put Dennis Greenwood on the list each year. We have a Jewish woman in our choir, not a Christian, just loves to sign sacred music and we welcome her fine voice. She didn’t list any names but said aloud, “All those murdered for their faith”. Indeed.
    Love to you and Josh.


    1. We miss you and think of you regularly🤗
      All saints day is a holiday here. Plenty of bell ringing and prayers done for those lost, for any religion. That’s great the woman reminded everyone of those persecuted for their religion. It’s upsetting that it still happens daily.


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