The Practice of Remembering

Around the corner from our flat in front of another door, just in front of the door lies this golden block…

hood gold block

Last January when I came for a visit, Ana and I went on a street art tour and these golden blocks were pointed out to us in that neighborhood. Our tour guide told us that these golden cobbles in front of places are to show who was taking from this building during the Holocaust.  Their names were place in golden blocks so that as people walk on them they shine more and more. They are meant to be noticed and scuffed into shining gold. Each block has a name and you can see where they were taken.  When we came back from that tour, Vera popped out at me just one door away.  Now every time I pass, I think of Vera and try to shine her block. “Hier Wohnte” Here lived…

When I started going to class in a new neighborhood, these popped out to my eyes right away…

near school gold

Just a few blocks into my walk from the bus to the school.  Today, I stopped to read the names and clear the cigarette butts and noticed these are even a little shinier.  Here lived Eugen and Therese Karfunkelstein.

In addition to naming these fallen saints before us and remembering what happened here and who was taken in the Holocaust, I went walking yesterday and just 10 minutes from our flat I noticed this laid into the ground.  I had seen the bricks before as I walked to the bus but yesterday it hit me. Just 10 minutes away was this…

hood wall 2

The bricks stretch on and on for a little ways and houses are right up next to it.  Whole lives were lived along this stretch of wall, separating the city.  Just right here and it’s mapped out in bricks. This isn’t the only place that we see displays of where the wall was…sometimes its actual pieces of wall, covered in art. Sometimes it is metal laid out in a way that represents the wall. Sometimes there are bricks or outlines or pictures but here in this city, you do not forget the wall.

It is important to people of the city to remember the past and what happened before so it won’t happen again.  It is important for this city to walk around these places and remember what was so that we can learn from what happened before and not forget. It is so easy to forget history especially if we weren’t there.  In this city history is in every block…held in buildings, in the bricks of the street, in the cobbles and on the walls.  Where I came from, history is quickly forgotten and easy to forget while here there is more of it which comes from a longer history and a commitment to it.

It is a practice to remember what was and think about what will be. It is a discipline to stop every once in a while to name the names, remember the stories, and to promise to be better.

Thank you, Berlin for helping me practice remembering.

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