WIESBADEN, Germany (May 9, 2012) -- 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. 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, or DCMA.
Together with volunteers of DCMA; 5th Signal Command; Corps of Engineers, Europe District; and other units, he got on his knees to scrub the bronze-covered cobblestones inserted on 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."
Members of his unit plan to adopt several stones located in side streets in the vicinity of their offices at the Amelia Earhart building for quarterly upkeep.
"I thought this is a great opportunity and fits right in with the Days of 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, said she 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 at Alexandra Str. 8, not far from the Amelia Earhart building. Stein was deported to Auschwitz on June 10, 1943, where he died.
Gudrun Schirmer, who lived in the same house as a little girl, placed a white rose on the stone she adopted in a small ceremony held May 2. Research on Stein's fate and those of 16 other Jewish Wiesbaden citizens, for whom memorial stones were placed the same day, was conducted by volunteers of the Aktives Museum Spiegelgasse, located at Spiegelgasse 11 in Wiesbaden. More information is available on the museum's website at www.am-spiegelgasse.de.
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 Jews, Sintis, Romas and other citizens to the death chambers of the concentration camps.