In June of this year, for the umpteenth time, Norway was visited by German artist Gunter Demnig to continue with his project to perpetuate the memory of the victims of Nazism. I had in my hands the exact working schedule for Gunter in Oslo, and therefore, it was not so difficult to find that the main important thing was to be on time. He works fast, as he visits multiple addresses on the same day. Time frames are respected with German vanity. While approaching to Grefsenveien Street at half-past eleven, from afar I saw a car with construction equipment and an artist, kneeling and cutting asphalt. Stumbling blocks are concrete cubes with a side of 10cm and bound with a sheet of brass. They are mounted on the sidewalk opposite the houses where people who were victims of Nazism lived. No matter how scary it looks, the life of any person fits in only four lines: name, year of birth, date of deportation and place of death. The first such stone was laid in Germany in 1992. Now there are thousands and they are located throughout Europe. The project became the largest monument dedicated to the victims of Nazism.
Today, three stones were placed on Grefsenveien 30, dedicated to the Weinstock family: a four-year-old girl and her parents. In November 1942 they ended up in the first group of 532 Norwegian Jews deported to Auschwitz. Having caught the moment, I asked already an elderly Gunther about the meaning of this enormous work, to which he devoted more than a dozen years of his life. Why and why does he travel to Europe 200 days a year? According to the artist, many people today do not understand the scale of the disaster, what a huge number of people in question. Some of them could live on the same landing with you and be your neighbors, if not …
“A man is forgotten when his name is forgotten”
Gunter first came to Norway in 2010 at the invitation of the Jewish Museum in Oslo city and since then he has installed several hundred of stones throughout the country. You can suddenly “stumble” on such a stone almost anywhere and think about the fate of a person who once lived at this address.
“I want to become famous. I don’t want to feel like a cog in a giant car. I don’t want to disappear into darkness, like others. People will die sooner or later, but I want to live! I want to leave a memory after me. It must be something beautiful and very important.” This is how a Jewish girl from Vienna in 1934 wrote in the diary of Ruth Mayer . Over the next eight years, she filled 1,100 pages of her diary. In her notes, Ruth reflects on literary and philosophical topics, talks about how she lived under the Nazi regime. Unrequited love, the first sexual experience, fear, shame, despair – all this is described in color by Ruth in her diary, published in 1999. The girl really became famous and she was called “Norwegian Anna Frank”. Having left in the fall of 1939 from occupied Austria to free Norway, Ruth began a new hopeful life. However, six months later, German troops marched triumphantly along the Norwegian streets. On November 26, 42, Ruth, who lived in Oslo at Dalbergstien 3, was arrested by the Norwegian police.
On the same day, she, like many Jews living in Norway, was deported to the Auschwitz death camp, where she died in the gas chamber on December 1, 1941. If you are interested in other fates of people hidden behind four lines on a stone, go to the website dedicated to this project www.snublestein.no