Stumbling stones in Ostend to commemorate pupils gassed in Auschwitz
The City of Ostend (West Flanders) has unveiled plans to place six Stolpersteine or ‘stumbling blocks’ as well as a ‘stumbling threshold’ outside the Athena Royal Atheneum secondary school in the port city. The stones will commemorate six pupils taken from their desks and deported to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, where they were murdered shortly afterwards. The ’stumbling threshold’ commemorates a seventh pupil, who as a result of Nazi regulations was no longer able to register at the school.
Stolpersteine are an initiative of the German artist Gunter Demnig. Brass plaques, measuring 10cm by 10cm, are fitted to cobble stones. The stones are then placed in the pavement outside the last known home of their choice of a victim of the Nazis. Stones can also be placed outside the victim’s place of work or school as in this case.
Joachim Speier-Hollstein, Regina Szpiro, Henriette Szpiro, Albert Schindler, Hermann Schindler and Simone Schendorf are the six pupils who will be commemorated by Stolpersteine that will be unveiled in Ostend on 8 May, Victory in Europe Day, next year.
“The stones don’t trip you up, but they do make you think about war and peace and the cruelty that touched millions of innocent victims in the war” says Ostend alderman Biörn Anseeuw (nationalist).
A ‘stumbling threshold’ is being erected for Isidoor Spziro. He was unable to register at the school as a result of Nazi regulations that from 1942 onwards banned Jewish children from official schools.
“The threshold symbolizes everybody’s right to an education in wartime” says teacher Kathelijn Vervarcke.
The first Stolpersteine were placed in Cologne (Germany) in 1992. Today nearly 100,000 ‘stumbling blocks’ occur in nearly 2,000 European cities.