If you stumble across a little brass plaque on a walk in Prague’s Old Town next week, then the chances are it is going to be a ‘kámen zmizelého’ (‘stone of the vanished’). The project, organized by the Czech Union of Jewish Students, will eventually see stones commemorating victims of the Holocaust embedded in pavements all over the capital. The idea comes from Germany, as does the man making the memorials, Gunter Demnig. But the project coordinator at the Czech end is Petr Mandl. I met him on Wednesday morning to ask first about the name of the project:
“I would translate it as ‘The Stones of the Vanished’, the original name is ‘Stolpersteine’ in German, which means rather ‘stumbling stones’, but it is very hard to translate, and the meaning of the project is a bit different in the Czech Republic.”
So is this part of a European network of ‘Stolpersteine’ then? How big is the scale of this Czech project?
“So of course, we wanted Prague to be part of this international project – as you know, it has already been done in many other European countries. And now in Prague we are unveiling our first ten stones, and we want the project to enlarge by around 30 stones per year.”
And I hear that you are actually going to have to look quite hard to find these stones - that they are not going to be all that evident at first glance…
“One of the ideas of the project is to personify the historical event that was the Shoah, the Holocaust. We want to reflect the stories of people who were murdered in its course. So of course, the stones can’t be massive and all down the pavements, on every corner.”
So, if you were going to hunting for these stones, where would you find the first ten?
“Well, the first stones will be put in the Old Town, in the Jewish Quarter, where many Jewish people lived. But in the future, the majority of Jewish people in Prague lived in Vinohrady, and so there will be many stones there as well.”
Who is funding this project?
“It is funded by private sponsors and donors, and also those people who want to dedicate a stone to their family share the cost.”
The project is being unveiled later this month, so there aren’t yet any stones in place, but what will they look like, for those who maybe won’t get to Prague, and maybe won’t get tot see them?
“The stones are concrete cubes around 10cm each, or four inches if you want to be metric about it, and then there is a sheet of brass on top with writing. The writing reads ‘here lived – the name of a person, the date of birth, the date of transport, where that person was deported and the place and date of that person’s murder’.”
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