By Anemone Rueger
WIESBADEN, Germany — Nearly 50 volunteers from Wiesbaden-based military units have become part of a unique German community program to maintain a number of "Stumbling Stones" commemorating Jewish lives in Wiesbaden extinguished by the holocaust.
"It was the idea of our Special Emphasis Coordinator Shaunna Fuller-Davis. She put the word out in our organization after she got in touch with the volunteer organization maintaining the memorial stones," said Col. Kenneth C. Tarcza, commander of the Defense Contract Management Agency.
Together with volunteers of DCMA, 5th Signal Command, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District and other units, he got on his knees to scrub the bronze-covered cobble stones inserted in the walkways of houses where Jewish citizens of Wiesbaden lived until they were deported to concentration camps during World War II. The stones carry the name of the former resident with birth and deportation dates and the name of the camp.
"I do this out of a fascination with history, out of a sorrow for this part of history and out of a feeling that we should do more to preserve the memory of those lives that were destroyed," said Tarcza. "I also think it's important for the American community to partner with the German community, and this is a meaningful way to do that." His unit plans to adopt several stones for quarterly upkeep that are located in side streets in the vicinity of their offices at the Amelia Earhart building.
"I thought this is a great opportunity and fits right in with the Days or Remembrance observed in April," said Sgt. 1st Class James Bonner of 5th Signal Command, who organized the unit's participation. Maj. Felicia R. Moore, the command's inspector general, felt it was important to help. "This was a demographic of people who didn't have a voice."
Many of the volunteers also gathered for the laying of a new stone for Dr. Albert Stein who was deported to Auschwitz on June 10, 1943, where he died. He lived at Alexandra Strasse 8 not far from the Amelia Earhart building.
For Tawnya Coulter, a USACE records manager, the experience was surreal.
"Watching the placement of the stone really brought the Holocaust home for me," Coulter said. "Each stone has a story to tell because it carries a name of a person who should not be forgotten."
Stein's stone will forever represent his story, just as the artist planned.
The "Stumbling Stones" or "Stolpersteine," as they are called in German, were initiated by Artist Gunter Demnig in the early 1990s, 50 years after the Nazi regime's decision to deport Jewish citizens, Sinti and Roma and other population groups into the death chambers of the concentration camps. The artist intended the stones to "trip" the memories of passers-by.
"A lot of people pass by the stones without noticing them, mainly because they are so weathered," Fuller-Davis said. "I just thought is was important to clean them because everyone needs to recognize that the people represented on the stones had lifes. They lived here in our community, and they were taken from their homes and many lost their lives. So if passers-by just stop for one second and read the names, in a way that honors those victims."