Walking around Berlin is like walking through quantum time: the 1990s, pre- and post-wall exist side by side with old 70s West Berlin pubs and 1960s East Berlin Plattenbau. Bridges built in the 1700s span the river from the stately old Altbau homes on one bank to the steel and glass geometry of Bauhaus office buildings on the other.
Construction cranes are everywhere, buildings knocked down, built up, refurbished, re-purposed, re-opened. A thousand slices of time, existing all at once, shimmering in the tangle of Berlin’s streets, each one as fragile as a moment, each one shining as long as it can before it… disappears.
And standing in between all these trembling moments of time, is the War.
In Berlin, if you stumble, it’s on a cobblestone. Not on a loose stone in the pavement, but on the sun bouncing off a brass plate. You stop, and you look. Hier wohnt… here lived… and a name, a date of birth, a date of deportation, a date of death. Little brass-plated cobblestones the same size as all the rest, but shinier, more durable, meant to last.
These are the Stolpersteine, and they are found all over the city, sometimes alone, but more often in clusters of two to five, entire families in one location, or groups of students in front of a school, groups of workers from a former Brauerei. Stolpersteine means “stumbling block” and you are meant to stumble on these — they are supposed to give you pause, maybe even a little pain, maybe even be something difficult to get over. Because these are people, the people who lived here, wherever you have stumbled, in their last freely chosen place of residence before being deported and exterminated under the Third Reich.
Read the full article and/or listen to the podcast (this is just the transcription I’ll have you know) on our sister site indie-republik.com – where from now on you’ll find all our art content – not limited to what’s going on in Berlin, but all over the shop.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.