In Berlin, the Smallest Monuments Leave Biggest Impression

These tiny monuments in Berlin leave a big impression of Nazi Germany.

There are monuments and memorials everywhere you turn in Berlin. With the impressive Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, and remnants of the Wall, it’s impossible to forget the city’s rich and complicated history. But the monument I most appreciate in my new, adopted home, is the subtlest of them all. Located all over my neighborhood of Mitte, where a large population of Jews lived before WWII, are tiny brass plaques called “Stolpersteine,” or stumbling stones.

These modest memorials are four inches square and placed within the cobblestone sidewalks all over the area. Each has a name, date, the name of the concentration camp that Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Christians, were taken to, and their fate. They usually read something like, “Here lived Ida Arensberg, 1870, deported 1942, Murdered in Theresienstadt on 18.9.1942.” Often seen in clusters, they are placed in front of the houses that people lived in before they were deported. They are called Stolpersteine because you literally stumble over them while walking through the neighborhood. They serve as a constant reminder to never forget what happened decades before.

The plaques were the brainchild of 63-year-old German artist Gunter Demnig. "It goes beyond our comprehension to understand the killing of six million Jews," Mr. Demnig told the New York Times in an interview. ''But if you read the name of one person, calculate his age, look at his old home and wonder behind which window he used to live, then the horror has a face to it.'' For many Jews and otherwise, these small tokens of remembrance act like the graves they never had for family members.

But the Stolpersteine aren’t only in my neighborhood. Demnig has now helped place 32,000 plaques in hundreds of cities and towns, which requires working seven days a week. It would be impossible to lay six million stones to commemorate the same number of people that perished in death camps, but the artist insists that’s not the point. Every Stolpersteine laid is meant to symbolize all the victims.

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Learn About Your Local History. Follow along and join the conversation at and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less