The author, Trevor Carroll and his wife Mathilde were near the end of the first of three lengthy visits to Berlin, a necessity as their youngest son Paul lived there as a professional volleyball player.
While walking in the Charlottenburg neighbourhood they encountered a group of brass plaques embedded in the cobblestones at the buildings entrance. The plaques were each stamped with a name and dated 1942. Other similar plaques were also discovered, at random intervals on footpaths with similar inscriptions, all dated during World War Two.
As only an ex-detective would, Trevor began to enquire as to what the plaques represented. It soon transpired that they were Stolpersteine or stumble stones, each one a memorial to each of the occupants of the building that they lay outside. The vast majority were Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust.
Stolpersteine are the largest decentralised memorials in the world with more than 70,000 scattered across some 2,000 municipalities in 24 countries. Each inscription is made in the local language beginning with 'HERE LIVED' followed by the name, date of birth and fate of the victim. During the Nazi era from 1933 to 1945, Jews lost their livelihoods, possessions and finally their very existence to the Nazi regime, proving that the Nazi's were not only mass murderers, but common thieves as well. We all are familiar with the figure of six million Jews murdered during the holocaust, but there were many other Germans and Europeans who also met the same fate by opposing the brutality of the Nazi regime.
These huge holocaust numbers are not the focus of this book, but those Berliners remembered by Stolperstein in Berlin are. The author has researched and resurrected stories of those people whose Stolperstein he has encountered, some of those tales are very brief as very little of their lives survives them. While other stories of sacrifice, bravery and survival are told in much more detail. After suffering years of Nazi persecution, Berlins Jews were subjected to deportation to the unknown. We now know of course their destination was either immediate death and death by labour.
It began with their arrest and eventual transport in mostly closed cattle cars with a minimum of fifty persons per car. However many cars had double that number. At the minimum load of fifty persons, the size of the cattle car allowed just two and a half persons to one square metre of space, a space that also needed to accommodate their baggage. On the overloaded transports, up to five persons shared that one square metre with a communal bucket as their toilet. Without food or water on a journey that took between two and seven days, the toll exacted upon the deportees was a heavy one.
This is a thought provoking read, not just names & numbers, but an insight into the insanity of the Nazi regime. At times the shear brutality of these stories is confronting, but a reminder of our past that never should be forgotten.
About The Author
A former boilermaker, miner, barman, bus & tour operator, police officer, event manager and now author who enjoys telling a good yarn and anecdote.
Born and bred in the far west New South Wales town of utopian Broken Hill and at twenty years of age worked deep in the bowels of the earth digging for a living. While shut off from a world that he yearned to be a part of, well away from the barren plains, heat and flies.
After a close call underground where he was nearly entombed, he left the isolation for a flight aboard QF1, bound for London where at first he was baffled by the hustle and bustle of the city. That initial trepidation wavered for an enjoyable life among new people, work and constant travels to the continent. Within a year he was behind the wheel of a double decker bus taking young colonials around Europe with Top Deck Travel before taking on the arduous trips to the Indian sub-continent. That time with Top Deck ended after some four years with a final trip, a 20-week tour, Sydney to London.
With an uncertain future and accompanied by Mathilde, his new love from the Netherlands. Sydney was the location for this, the next chapter, along with a new career with the N.S.W Police. The cauldron of Cabramatta was the set for this episode. After a few turbulent years a new home and posting was found at Forster with his now wife and three sons. After 21 years as both a uniformed officer and detective, early retirement was an unavoidable result of a serious 'Hurt On Duty' incident.
This latest work, 'Berlin's Hollow Homes' work follows two others, 'Crossing Continents with Top Deck' published 2017 and 'The Cops, not just a job' published 2019. All are self published, marketed and distributed.