Salzburg has a very rich Jewish history, and because of this history it is home to more than 200 stolpersteine, also known as “stumbling stones”. 200 stones may not seem like a lot, but Salzburg is a very small town, which was home to many Jews, and now to many stolpersteine. I was a part of several installations at this location and witnessed this moving process. The artist, Gunter Demnig, places every stone himself, which is why he is constantly traveling throughout Europe. I watched as he transformed just an ordinary city block into something truly special and meaningful. Demnig and his team of less than ten people perfectly installed each stone into the sidewalk, finishing it off by placing a fresh rose on the stolpersteine. A few people were gathered, such as curious outsiders, friends or family, and members of the Salzburg stolpersteine committee. Each town that allows stolpersteine to be installed has a committee of people that are in charge of making this happen through close communication with Gunter Demnig. They are present at every installation. In Salzburg, I had the pleasure of meeting a few of these committee members. One man named Stan Nadel, is a history professor at the University of Salzburg, but is from New York City. He even attended The Bronx High School of Science, which is where I am currently a student. Dr. Nadel is in change of translating the website and all the speeches from German to English. A brief biography of the person being commemorated was read and the glistening plaque lay on the ground, embedded into the street.
There have been reports of vandalizing stolpersteine in Salzburg, orchestrated and carried out by Neo-Nazis. They cover them with black paint or tear the stones out to completely wipe out the existence of Jewish people. In January 2014, the Neo-Nazis painted a yellow star on the synagogue of Salzburg, like the ones Jews were forced to wear during the holocaust. Some of these vandals have been sentenced to prison but other cases still remain unsolved. It’s outrageous that people are destroying these incredible memorials that have inspired so many people.