The German word Stolperstein means stumbling stone, and today you may “stumble” over one of these 70,000 small brass stones placed all over Germany as well as Europe. This is a project initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992 to commemorate victims of the Nazis at their last place of residency or work. Most stones remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but there are also stones remembering other groups or individuals persecuted and killed by the Nazis. When you “stumble” over the 10 x 10 cm stones while walking by, it’s meant to make you stop and think about the impact of Nazi terror and the lives that were destroyed.
In Görlitz, the first stones were placed in 2007. As of 2018, there are 21 Stolpersteine commemorating the victims of Nazi terror in Görlitz, and in the future we will probably have more. Engraved on the stones is usually the text “Here lived/worked….” with their name and their fate, if known.
On November 9th each year, Germany commemorates the November pogrom in 1938, coordinated attacks carried out against Jews throughout Nazi Germany in which their homes, businesses and synagogues were looted and destroyed and many Jews were arrested or killed.
In Görlitz in 2018, this date was commemorated through several events, including a tour of the Stolpersteine in our city that I participated in. It was after taking part in this tour that I felt compelled to seek out all the information that I could about the 21 people commemorated and to share this information with you about the Stolpersteine in Görlitz:
Eugen Bass was a veterinarian who was born in Berlin but lived in Görlitz at Luisenstraße 21. His stone was placed there in 2007. In 1930 he published a book “Der Praktische Tierarzt” (The Practical Veterinarian). He was first sent to the Jewish ghetto in Tormersdorf, today a deserted village north of Görlitz on the Polish side of the Neisse River. In 1942 he was deported to Theresienstadt, today Terezín in Czechia. Theresienstadt was not an extermination camp, but the conditions there were appalling. Eugen Bass died there at the age of 80.
The artist Paul Boehm and his sister Jenny Boehm were both born in Breslau (Wrocław, Poland) and lived in the Vogtshof in Görlitz beside the Peterskirche where their stones were placed in 2007 near the entrance. Paul died in the Jewish ghetto of Tormersdorf at the age of 74, his sister Jenny was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and killed at the extermination camp Treblinka.
Sigmund Fischer and his wife Betty Fischer were textile dealers in Görlitz. They owned and operated the Textilhaus Fischer on Bismarckstraße, which was plundered and damaged during the November pogrom in 1938. They lived at Demianiplatz 25 and today when the doors are unlocked, you can step inside the entryway and read information about the Fischers and their descendants on the walls. Their stones were placed there in 2007. Betty was born in Görlitz, her husband Sigmund was born in Aussee (Usov in Czechia). They were both deported to Theresienstadt in 1942. Betty died there at the age of about 62, while Sigmund was killed in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of about 65.
Erich Oppenheimer and his wife Charlotte Oppenheimer lived with their son Werner Oppenheimer at Jakobstraße 3 in Görlitz. Erich and Charlotte’s stones were placed there in 2007 and their son Werner’s later in 2012. Erich was a doctor born in Berlin and his wife was born in Görlitz Moys, now a neighborhood in Zgorzelec. All three were sent to the ghetto in Tormersdorf in 1942. Erich and Charlotte committed suicide by drowning themselves in the Neisse River to avoid being deported at the ages of about 48 and 46. Their son, about 21 years of age, was sent to the ghetto in Lublin in 1942. His fate is unknown.
Hugo Schaye lived at Salomonstraße 41 in Görlitz with his wife Elsbeth Schaye and son Robert Schaye. Their stones were placed there in 2007. Hugo and Elsbeth Schaye owned a hide and fur trade in the neighborhood of Rauschwalde. Hugo was born in Görlitz but his wife was from Bernsee. They were deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and died there at the ages of about 78 and 71,while their son was sent east and killed in the concentration camp Madjanek at the age of about 47.
Carl Jacobsohn and his son Hans Jacobsohn lived at Bismarckstraße 16 in Görlitz, where their stones were placed in 2012. Carl was born in Gollub and Hans was born in Görlitz. They both fled to Holland in 1938 but were sent to Auschwitz in 1944 and killed there at the ages of about 67 and 35. Their son and brother Walter Jacobsohn escaped and lives today in Israel.
Dr. Fritz Warschawski, a dentist, and his wife Käthe Warschawki were wealthy and influential citizens in Görlitz. Sensing that life was becoming increasingly dangerous for them in Germany, they fled in secrecy to Palastine in 1938. Their grandson wants to remember his grandparents, who lived at Postplatz 10 in Görlitz where their stones were placed in 2012. Käthe struggled to cope after fleeing to a strange new country and killed herself in 1935.
Paul Arnade and his wife Margarete Arnade owned and operated a suitcase and leather goods factory in Görlitz, which Paul’s father Julius Arnade founded in 1872. The factory was on Peterstraße until it was destroyed in a fire in 1876. Arnade took the opportunity to start a larger factory in Görlitz Moys. His business profited from a prosperous economy and increase in tourism. Julius Arnade died in 1915 and his tombstone can be found in the Jewish Cemetery in Görlitz. Paul and Margarete, both born in Görlitz, took over the business after his death and lived at Jakobstraße 31 in Görlitz. Their stones were placed there in 2014. Paul became chairman of the tourism association in Görlitz, but was pressured to resign in 1933 because he was Jewish. In 1936 the family was forced to sell the factory for a paltry sum. In 1941 both Paul and Margarete were sent to the ghetto in Tormersdorf. Paul and Margarete were both deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 where he died at the age of about 68. Margarete was killed in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of about 58.
Martin Ephraim was born in Görlitz. His father, Lesser Ephraim, founded a successful ironmongery trading business. After it outgrew its premises on the Neißstraße in Görlitz, he acquired property on Jakobstraße 5. Today, you can see the initials EG on the beautiful ornate golden door, standing for Ephraim Görlitz. After Lesser Ephraim’s death in 1900, Martin Ephraim took over the business. Lesser Ephraim’s gravestone can be found in the Jewish Cemetery in Görlitz. Martin Ephraim had a villa built on Goethestraße 17 – one of the first houses in Görlitz built in art nouveau style. The villa was a youth hostel for many years and is now a hotel.
Martin Ephraim was a public benefactor who made huge contributions to Görlitz both culturally and commercially. He donated art collections to museums and helped to build the Ruhmeshalle (Dom Kultury) and the New Synagogue and to rebuild the railway station in Görlitz. His Stolperstein was placed outside of the office of the factory manager’s house on Zittauer Straße 64 in 2014. In 1944 at the age of 84 he was deported to the ghetto in Theresienstadt and he died there the same year.
Elsbeth Ucko and her son Wilhelm Ucko, both born in Görlitz, had a photo studio at Elisabethstraße 10/11, where their stones were placed in 2018. Her husband had died earlier in WWI. In 1944 at the age of about 63 Elsbeth was deported to the ghetto Litzmannstadt (Łódź) where she died. Her son Wilhelm was deported to Theresienstadt in 1944 but he survived and went to Sweden.
Alfons Wachsmann, born in Berlin, studied theology and was ordained as a priest in Breslau in 1921. From 1921-1924 he was the chaplain of the parish of the Holy Cross Church in Görlitz on Struvestraße 19, where his stone was placed in 2018. Alfons Wachsmann took an early stand against National Socialism, using his pulpit to criticize and speak out against the regime. He was declared an enemy of the state and his calls and correspondence were monitored. In 1943 he was arrested and sentenced to death. In 1944 they executed him at the age of 48.
The 21 stones scattered around Görlitz remind us of the 21 lives that were destroyed by National Socialism. Some of them are well-remembered as influential citizens of Görlitz, and some of them were “average” people who left little behind to remember them by. One thing they all have in common – their lives were cruelly taken away from them. These stones remind us of the history everywhere we walk. So if you’re in Görlitz, and you happen to stumble upon one of these small brass stones, take a moment to think about what was lost.