Today is the Memorial Day for the Victims of the National-Socialist Regime. As a foreigner in Germany, especially because I live so close to Nuremberg (which is known throughout the English-speaking world as the scene of the Nuremberg Trials), it's hard not to see traces of the Third Reich and its atrocities in everyday life. Germans have a difficult relationship to their past: many feel a burden of responsibility for what their grandparents may (and may not) have done, a kind of collective guilt for the horrors committed in the Second World War.
So how do you commemorate the victims of the National-Socialist Regime? Well, in our little town, there are a number of silent reminders. One is a photograph in our local library:
Overlaid on a glass wall overlooking the courtyard of the former town hall is a picture of the Jewish citizens of the town, who were rounded up as part of the Kristallnacht pogroms. It is one of the most chilling things I have ever seen: when you stand in the right place, the ghostly figures of the people below seem to come alive. It's not pretty, it's unapologetically harsh. It is what happened.
And every house that lost inhabitants to the Nazis has a small gold stone set into the pavement on the ground outside for each person that died. I read them compulsively, I can't help it. I won't step on them, I pause to look at them and remember the names. So this post is for my neighbour, little Hannelore Benesi, born in 1935, deported in 1943 and murdered in Auschwitz.