Turning the corner, they caught my eye. On the ground before a door in Viterbo, on a street where I've walked for years, three brass squares shined in the light. They lay as replacements for three usual grey cobblestones. On each was engraved a name, some dates, and then “Deportato Auschwitz" and “Morto 1945.” My heart sank as I looked down and then around at this pleasant entrance to the walled city - home of the most beloved gelato shop in town.
In 2015 the German artist Gunter Demnig came from Cologne to Viterbo to place these stones at the door at the invitation of local sponsors. Now the site and its stones are part of his ongoing Stolpersteine project - probably the world’s largest memorial. In twenty-one European countries, over 60,000 stones have been placed before the last residences of victims of WW2 percecution. In this case (as with most) three Jewish citizens were taken away only because of their religeon and were sent to the horrific Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz where they were killed or died.
The project’s name, Stolpersteine, is well chosen. It’s a German word meaning a “stumbling stone” or something to be stumbled upon. The subtle markers are poignant reminders of the horrors of seamingly peaceful places. I find it also fitting that the stones lie coincidently on an ancient street and an old entrance to the city both named "della Verita" - meaning, "of Truth".