She was there to honor their memory and to place six of her family members' names into the cobblestone street in front of the house. The so-called Stolpersteine ("stumbling stones") were plated with brass and engraved with names, and would from this day onward be part of the city's landscape. Knowing this gave Kleinman a peace of mind that she had never felt before.
Kleinman is a psychiatrist who lives in a suburban Maryland neighborhood outside of Washington, DC, but she spent her childhood in Kansas. Her parents were Jewish World War II survivors who fled to the U.S. after Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") in 1938. "For the most part they did not talk about their losses, and they actually didn't find out until 1945 what happened to their parents," Kleinman says, admitting she grew up sheltered from the full knowledge of what happened to her family in Germany.
Recently, new material on the Internet, such as ancestry and death records, has made it possible for Kleinman to learn about her family's history. She also learned that the town of Gelsenkirchen, where her mother grew up, installed Stolpersteine for some of their Jewish citizens-- including citizens who escaped Germany, like her mother.
Kleinman researched the Stolpersteine project and learned more about it; the little "stumbling stones" are commemorative brass plaques that are installed by German artist Gunter Demnig into the pavement in front of the last known addresses of Holocaust victims. The stones serve as a constant reminder of the loss of human life during World War II. There are over 53,000 stumbling stones across Europe, and each one reminds passerbys of the individuals who once lived at that address. "And since my grandparents had no grave, I thought this would be an important marker to identify that they had been here and lived on this earth and contributed quite a bit," Kleinman says. "This was a place where a physical part of their memory could be."
The town of Koblenz installs its own Stolpersteine about once a year, and they were having a ceremony on March 12, 2016, Kleinman says. So after months of planning and with the help of the German Embassy in Washington, Kleinman traveled to Germany with her granddaughter, Olivia, to lay six stones for her family members at Rizzastraile 27 in Koblenz. The stones would honor the memory of her grandparents (Siegfried and Selma Cohn, who died in 1942 in Treblinka), her father (Walter Joseph Cohn, who...