Postcard from... Munich


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They are called Stolpersteine – literally “stumbling stones” – and each one of the matchbox-sized brass plaques denotes the plight of a Holocaust victim.

Today the plaques, first conceived by sculptor Gunter Demnig in 1994, grace pavements outside the former homes of death-camp victims in more than 1,000 European cities. A fortnight ago, the 50,000th example was laid  to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in Poland. 

Odd then, that Munich – the Bavarian city once infamous for being “the capital of the Nazi movement” – has been virtually alone in banning Stolpersteine from its pavements. Odder still that the main objector and instigator of the ban is both a Holocaust survivor and the current head of Munich’s 4,000 Jews.

Charlotte Knobloch, 82, argues that Stolpersteine are an insult to Holocaust victims who “deserve better than a plaque in the dust, street dirt and even worse, filth”.

Her view has prevailed since 2004. But now the tide is about to turn. Terry Swartzberg, an American Jew who has lived in Germany for nearly 40 years, is campaigning to overturn the ban. The city government is rumoured to be ready to end it this month. Mr Swartzberg has 300 of the plaques stored up and ready to install.