When we arrived in Salzburg on our first day, and went on an orientation tour of town with our tour manager, Gretchen, she began pointing out these bronze “stumbling stones” that are set into the streets.
We saw one, then another, then another and another, and before long, we had seen more than we ever wanted to.
They mark the places where people who were deported and then murdered by the Nazis lived. It is an effort by a private organization, and the stones are all over Europe, with the idea being that you are literally supposed to trip over them - and remember their lives, and the atrocity that ended them. The stones list their names, year of birth, the date they were deported and where to, and the date they were murdered. The word “murdered” is very intentional.
These memorials do their job in that I felt the heaviness and closeness of the war and what happened. You see the stone below your feet, and then look up to the building (and in Salzburg, it’s likely still the same building, the same front door, the same flower boxes in the windows), and think about them coming home with the groceries, leaving for work, having a smoke outside the front door.
It was not that long ago - less than 100 years. And still these things are happening around the world, and they can happen again.
We must know our history. We can’t afford to forget. Another reason why I love travel - even when it’s hard, we are connected to humanity more than before, and the size of the heart swells for other cultures and beings. At least that has been our experience. I pray it is so for many, many others.