by Elena Riedlinger, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Germany.
In many European cities, so-called Stolpersteine (literal translation: stumbling blocks) commemorate the victims of the National Socialist regime in Germany.
Each stone commemorates a victim that was persecuted, deported, murdered or driven to suicide by the Nazi regime. With over 100,000 Stolpersteine in 27 countries, the Stolpersteine project by the artist Gunter Demnig is the largest decentralized memorial in the world.
“Stolpersteine NRW” is a project of the public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR). It extends the work of Gunther Demnig in the digital realm. Through an app and a homepage, it offers further information on the biographies of the victims and provides an innovative, interactive approach to the topic of National Socialism.
Via the Stolpersteine NWR app and through the Stolpersteine NRW website users are able to access an interactive map which shows each one of more than 16,000 Stolpersteine in NRW. The small brass plaques embedded in the ground are usually located in front of the victims last freely chosen residence. “Stolpersteine NRW” contains thousands of biographical texts, illustrations, audio plays and historical photos which help to experience the stories of the victims through different forms of storytelling. The mobile app offers curated routes and an integrated GPS navigation system to guide users from Stolperstein to Stolperstein.
Interactive learning and free lecture material
“Stolpersteine NRW” also offers many possibilities for teaching purposes, using interactive learning. On the website, teachers find free teaching material (in German) to incorporate the app and website in class. There are five modules provided which are suitable for History, Religion, Social Sciences, and Philosophy lessons in secondary school.
Using the app, students are given the opportunity to discover Stolpersteine in their own neighborhood. On the website, they can search the provided database to do research and learn about different biographies. The interactive glossary explains unfamiliar terms to help deepen their knowledge.
Students can contribute own content
Since spring 2023, WDR has been offering students the opportunity to actively participate in the project. Supported by the “Stolpersteine NRW” team, they are given the opportunity to research biographies of persecuted people and create their own texts and illustrated short stories for the Stolpersteine NRW app and website.
By doing so, students are able to help perceive the victims’ life stories and make them digitally accessible to others.
During the past few months, over 20 content pieces have been produced by students during school collaborations. They include biographical texts and illustrated short stories, which have been published in the Stolpersteine NRW app and on the website.
“The WDR project is very rewarding for us. The students discover the life stories of the victims and are able to share them with others in a creative way through the app”, resumes Felix Trüten, one of the first teachers participating in the collaboration. The texts and graphic novels written by his students are helpful to other users of the app to better understand and remember the consequences of National Socialism in Germany.
Editor’s note: Stolpersteine NRW was a worthy winner of the 2023 MEDEA Awards Special Jury Prize AND the Audience Favourite Prize and we were delighted to have Elena join us for the Awards ceremony held in Leuven City Hall on 20 June.
Elena Riedlinger, Editor, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Germany