The First Stolperteine in Wrocław

Excerpt from the article:

The stones I install are tangible proof of the existence of people who never had any burial or grave because they died in gas chambers,” says the German artist Günter Demnig. On February 2, 2016, he laid his first two memory stones –  Stolpersteine – in Wrocław.

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Most of the Stolpersteine have been installed in Germany. When Demnig brought up the idea of his project in Poland, back in the late 1990’s, almost every bureaucrat in every city administration he approached had their own idea as to how to improve on it. Some wanted the Stolpersteine to be installed on building walls (so they would not be stepped on); others were worried the plates would be stolen (because they are made of brass, which is expensive); others thought the memory stones should only be laid for famous people. Demnig was supposed to lay a stone in Warsaw, but the legal procedure was so complicated and blocked by so many institutions that the families had to give up. The project was finally carried out in Wrocław after many years of bureaucratic struggle.
It wasn’t easy, though. Michael Zorek, whose family was the first to be commemorated in Wrocław, spent almost two years getting all the necessary permits. He says that it was finally possible only thanks to his own tenacity and persistence. Perhaps he also had a bit of luck; city officials didn’t realize the whole process would take so long and they tried to help Michael as best they could. Michael made hundreds of phone calls and wrote hundreds of emails, all this despite the fact that he doesn’t speak a word of Polish. He would have never succeeded if all he did was follow the advice given to him in various city departments. But Michael was persistent and creative. When he was told that he needed to provide an up-to-date photo of the townhouse where his father used to live, he found it on Google Earth and then emailed the owner of a nearby bakery and asked her to take a photo of the house for him.

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Translation: Aga Zano

Proofreading: Barbara Pendzich

 

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