A group of students of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management gathered together on the evening of January 27th at Hellenstrasse 42, where today stands the school’s E building. It is on that very spot where the stolpersteins (“stumbling blocks”) for Hermann and Nettchen Salomon and Leopold and Helene Nartha, four former Jewish residents deported and later executed, can be found. At dusk, the students lit candles and, as a sign of respect for the victims of national socialism, cleaned the stolpersteins.
“It is still important, even 70 years later, that the past not be forgotten,” said Kaspar Wartenhorst, president of the Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten (RCDS). The 27th of January, which marked the day of liberation at the concentration camp in Auschwitz, is now International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Vallendar was home to many people of the Jewish faith. In fact, by 1925, there were as many as 200 Jewish residents, whose situation over time became increasingly difficult. Many were forced to move away or leave the country altogether. Ultimately, in 1942, the last remaining 41 Jewish residents were deported.
Today, in Vallendar, there are only 22 stolpersteins – the fate of each victim could not be made visible. The stolpersteins are part of a project started in 1992 by artist Gunter Demnig. These small, commemorative plaques are embedded into the ground and are intended to memorialize the deaths of those who died in the concentration camps. Each stolperstein bears the name, date of birth, and date of passing of one individual person. Today, there are more than 70,000 of these plaques across Germany, making the project the largest decentralized monument in the world.
It is important to WHU students to maintain a culture of remembrance. Both the vigil and the stolperstein-cleaning initiative take place every year in cooperation with Haus Israel in Neuwied. Kaspar Wartenhorst hopes that a large group of people will come together again next year for this cause. For him, it is clear that “only when we keep the memory alive can we take a common stand against antisemitism. The past must never be repeated.”