Almost 50 ‘stumbling stone’ Holocaust memorials were set into the pavement around a major German publisher’s new head office in Berlin last week, recognising the dozens of Jews deported from there in the 1940s.
Publisher Axel Springer opened its new high-rise headquarters in Zimmerstrasse last Wednesday by laying the first of 87 Stolpersteine by artist Gunter Demnig in Berlin’s old Newspaper Quarter. At least 26 Jews were taken to their deaths from Zimmerstrasse 48a and 48b, the building that existed on the site at the time.
Mathias Döpfner, the company’s chief executive, said the new building was “grounded in the ruins of German history”, and that the stumbling stones “recall the terrible fates of the Jewish victims who lived on this patch of ground, like barbed hooks of history catching us as we pass”.
He added: “The resurgence of antisemitism in Germany, of all places, reminds us that in our fight against it, we must not be content to dwell in the memory of it, but must actively oppose it.”
Axel Springer executives said the significance of the location “can only be understood if its past is not forgotten”.
Among those taken and killed from there was shoe-maker Arthur Israel Alexander, who was sued for unpaid rent after he had been deported.
Another was Mordechai Tanin, a furrier from Krakow, who was forced to shovel snow in the winter. He caught pneumonia and died, while his wife and two children aged 10 and three were killed after being deported to Auschwitz.
Also remembered was Edgar Lax, who lived at Zimmerstrasse 48b with his parents. Coming to England on the Kinderstransport, he was the only family member to survive. His son, Bobby, attended last Wednesday, alongside German Culture Minister Prof Monika Grütters, Dr Felix Klein, commissioner for Jewish life in Germany, and Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer.
Demnig has been commemorating Nazi victims for almost 30 years by “giving them back their names”.
Grütters said: “With the 87 memorial stones that will be placed here [in the newspaper district]… we want to remember those who were persecuted and murdered, and give them back their names and a place of remembrance.”
The road works will be completed in the next few months.