One of the things you would notice on a walking tour of Bamberg would be the Stolpersteine. These are brass covered stones positioned in front of specific buildings where Jewish people were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to Nazi concentration camps. Each stone is engraved with the name of the person taken, their birth date, the date they were taken, the camp they were taken to, and the date they were murdered. The complete list of the people currently honored in stone can be found by clicking here.
The word Stolpersteine literally translated means stumbling stone. The point being that as people walk along and they see these stones, the memory of those who died is kept alive. From what I have been told, there are 20,000 of these stones in Europe, mainly in Germany. They were all made by one man, Gunter Denmig. He had the idea to honor the dead in this way. The stones now represent the world’s largest decentralized memorial.
The organization behind the Bamberg stones is the Willy-Aron-Gesellschaft organization. I was fortunate to meet Andreas Ullmann. He is a student at the University of Bamberg who donated money for two stones and is an active member of the organization. Andreas introduced me to Dr. Nikolai Czugunow-Schmitt, the President of the Willy-Aron-Gesellschaft Bamberg organization.
We met for nearly two hours at a local restaurant, DaCaBo, where he explained the purpose of the stones and the organizations plans for a large memorial to be erected on the grounds of Bamberg University. The memorial will honor three men killed by the Nazis, one a Jew, Willy Aron, one a Catholic, Hans Wolfel, and one a German Army officer in the 17th Calvary Regiment of the Reichswehr, Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. His regiment was based in Bamberg, but Stauffenberg had to work in Berlin where he became responsible for the emergency plan called “Walkure”. He and his friends changed that plan so it could be used to arrest the Nazi Government officials and the SS. Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler by placing a briefcase with a bomb in it under a table where Hitler was meeting with his generals. Stauffenberg left the meeting and another general moved the briefcase behind a pillar to get it out of the way. The pillar took the brunt of the explosion and Hitler received minor scratches. They knew Stauffenberg was responsible and picked him up immediately. Recently, Tom Cruise made a movie about von Stauffenberg, called Valkryie.
The memorial will consist of 3 bronze busts depicting the heroes. It is a unique concept in that the men being honored came from disparate backgrounds. Each gave their lives and showed tremendous Civil Courage by their individual resistance efforts against the Nazi regime. The purpose of this important memorial will serve as a reminder to future generations of the importance of Civil Courage, sacrifice and to be willing to fight against evil. The organization gives out an award each year to a person who has demonstrated Civil Courage. For more information on the award, contactl Dr. Nikolai Csugunow-Schmitt (see email address below).
The cost of the memorial is 100,000 Euro (approximately $136,000). They still need to raise 70,000 Euro (approximately $95,200). Their goal is to raise the memorial in late 2010.
The Willy-Aron-Gesellschaft organization is trying to raise money for another 210 stones to be placed in Bamberg. The cost per stone is 125 Euro (approximately $170). Donors can choose the name of a person to honor in stone or let the organization decide.
For more information on the organization or to make a donation:
Send donations to the Willy-Aron-Gesellschaft Bamberg:
Account no. 302187760
Bank code 770 500 00
Further information: www.willy-aron-gesellschaft.de
I later connected the Willy Aron society with the JROTC youth on the Bamberg military base. They became friends and I was able to set up a meeting with both groups. The video below shows that meeting and the cadets speaking about civil courage.