Spend time exploring Rome’s Jewish Ghetto and you’ll soon stumble upon some inscribed brass inscriptions among the dark Roman cobbles. These are Rome’s Stumbling Stones – pietri d’inciampo in Italian or Stolpersteine in German. And the history they preserve is harrowing.
Who created the Stolpersteine?
The Stolpersteine were devised and created by Berlin artist Gunter Demnig in the early 1990s. Demnig chose the name, which means ‘stumbling stones’ in German, because he wanted to provoke people into stumbling mentally and emotionally whenever they came across one of his commemorative stones.
What is the idea behind the stumbling stones?
Because the Nazis viewed their victims as statistics, the emphasis of the Stumbling Stones is on commemorating the individual.
Demnig personally embedded each stone outside the final abode of the Holocaust’s Jewish victims in 1992. This was to ensure that the installation was respectful – that the location of the stumbling stone made sense to the relatives and that there was contact with the descendants of those who were being commemorated.
What do the Stumbling Stones show?
The brevity of the stumbling stones’ biographies is as haunting as it is moving. Inscribed upon the brass is are the words QUI ABITAVA (here lived) followed by the name of the person, their date of birth, the date of the deportation to Auschwitz and, where known, the date of their death.
Embedded outside the final home the victim chose to live in, Rome’s Stumbling Stones are forever rooted into the fabric of the Eternal City. Of the 200 Stolpersteine in Rome, 12 are to be found in the Jewish Ghetto, with the others dispersed across 9 other Roman districts including Trastevere, Campo de’ Fiori, the Aventine Hill, and Prati.
Gunter Demnig’s Stumbling Stones are not unique to Rome. The first stolperstein was installed outside Cologne’s City Hall in 1992, and as of 2016 Demnig and his coworkers have created and installed more than 60,000 stones in more than 1,200 towns and cities throughout Europe, including Germany, France, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands.
Visit Rome’s Jewish Ghetto
I was born and raised in Rome, the latest in a line of Sephardic Jews whose ancestors arrived here half a millennia ago. Raised in an Orthodox family, I studied at the Rome Yeshiva where I specialised in the enduring and eternal bond that binds Jews to the city of Rome.
The question of why we are still here in Rome fascinates me.
My studies led me to become a tour guide and researcher, where I specialize in our unique connection to the Italian capital.
Around a third of Italy’s 45,000 Jews live in Rome. Our community is amply served by the city’s dozen Ashkenazi and Sephardic Orthodox synagogues, but Roman Jews are different. And it’s in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, the small area between the banks of the River Tiber and the pagan temples of the Roman Republic, where you get the most authentic sense of Jewish life in Rome.
Contact me on WhatsApp or by filling out the form below and let me introduce you to Rome’s Jewish community and show you the Eternal City from a fresh perspective.