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The Stolpersteine Project: Two German Towns Honor their Jewish Citizens

By Emily Watson

In the previous edition of the Link, a resident of New Mexico for six years, and a member of Congregation Albert, Emily Watson wrote an article about the memorial Stolpersteine (stumbling stone) project. This commemorative endeavor is the largest, decentralized, grassroots Holocaust remembrance project worldwide; but primarily, in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Norway, as well as other locations throughout Europe. Since that initial article was published, many exciting developments have occurred.

The New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit: “The Stolpersteine Project: Two German towns honor their Jewish citizens.” The Museum, located at 616 Central Avenue, SW in downtown Albuquerque, will be hosting an opening reception on Sunday, June 18 from 2 to 4 pm. Emily Watson, Toni Nemes, who initiated this endeavor and the NMHIM project team will be on hand at the reception to further discuss this amazing project, and answer any questions.

In addition, the Jewish Community Center of Albuquerque will hosting a presentation about this project on Tuesday evening, June 20, from 7 pm to 9 pm. The JCC is located at 5520 Wyoming Blvd, NE in Albuquerque.

The NMHIM exhibit will be geared more towards presenting Emily’s family’s background and history while the JCC presentation will give an overview of the specific southwest German towns and the region’s involvement in the Stolpersteine project. Toni Nemes, a professional photographer currently employed as an IT administrator for the Hessian Ministry of Education is visiting from Germany and will describe his participation in the project.

The Stolpersteine project was started about twenty years ago by a German artist named Gunter Demnig. Mr. Demnig was born and raised in Germany, and was not only influenced by the horrific tragedies he learned about as a youth, but he was also compelled to interweave this painful journey into a historically relevant physical remembrance. There are now an estimated sixty thousand Stolpersteine, or stumbling stones installed. The roughly four inch by four inch Stolperteine are designed as brass-colored memorial plaques with text stating the victim’s names, and pertinent information, are laid into the pavement in front of dwelling places where Jewish, and other persecuted groups and individuals were last known to have resided before they were victimized by the Nationalist Socialist regime. Mr. Demnig eloquently cites the Talmud, saying, “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten.”

Emily, whose parents were born in Germany, became involved with the project when she received a package from an unknown German sender, from the town of Kyllburg. As it turned out, Toni Nemes, the package sender, was born in the same town as Emily’s mother, Rebecka Nussbaum.

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As a native of Kyllburg, Germany, Toni became curious and started to trace the history of the Jewish residents and their descendants in southwestern Germany. Toni took it upon himself to continue Demnig’s impassioned mission in his own hometown.

The two presentations will provide an overview of these specific Southwest German towns and the region’s involvement in the Stolpersteine project. Emily’s family’s background, and history, will also be discussed as well as an in depth video interview, and a photo exhibit, detailing Toni’s interest and involvement in this project.

The narrative of how members of Emily’s family either got entangled in the Nazis’ efforts to persecute and eliminate its German Jewish citizens, or were able to leave the country, will also be shared. The presentation will also provide more insight into how the ‘stumbling stones’ are installed in German and international cities. In Kyllburg, Emily’s family home town, the placement of these memorial stones will occur on November 6, 2017.

The exhibit is proudly sponsored by the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, and First Eye Films.
A Stolperstein commemorating the life of Else Libermann von Wahlendorf

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