What past? Why despite?
The Past is the period of Nazi terror, specifically the way it affected Gelnhausen, a small town in Hesse, a town that embraced Nazi ideology with enthusiasm expelling all its 218 Jewish citizens. Many were later murdered, many went into exile, none returned permanently. Those opposed to the regime – including the Catholic priest – also suffered.
So, despite this past, how does a town atone for the sins of its fathers?
Despite This Past documents the project for laying Stolpersteins or “Stumbling Stones” in Gelnhausen. To date 55,000 of these memorial stones have been set in the pavements of towns and cities across continental Europe. Engraved with the essential details of the victim, the intention is to restore his or her name to collective memory.
The book has three sections. A Stone describes the project in Gelnhausen. A Name is devoted to case histories. A Human Being illustrates the personal consequences of the project. Its diverse contributors range from an American university professor to a German schoolgirl. Concentrating on the victims and not the perpetrators, “Despite This Past” tells the story of normal people who were caught up in the Nazi terror.
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