As passers-by walk along the slowly waking street in Helsinki’s Munkkiniemi district on the chilly Wednesday morning, their eyes lock on the three concrete cubes bearing a brass plate laid in the pavement.
Some take a quick look. Others stare longer. A man in a suit stops and reads the text carefully:
“Here lived Franz Olof Kollmann. Born in 1941 in Helsinki. He was handed over to Gestapo on November 6, 1942. He was taken to Auschwitz in 1943. Murdered.”
According to the second plate, Janka Kollmann, Franz’s mother, shared the same horrible fate.
These brass plates are Finland’s first stolpersteins, stumbling stones, installed on Saturday in the pavement of Munkkiniemen Puistotie, inscribed with the name of the victims of Nazi persecution.
In the building behind the stolpersteins lived the Jewish Kollmann family before they were handed over to Nazis in 1942.
In Finland, a total of eight Jews were turned over to Nazis during the Second World War. The five others still lack their respective stolpersteins.
The man in the suit takes a second look at the plates.
The third stolperstein says: “Here lived Dr. Georg Kollmann. Born in 1912 in Austria. Escaped to Finland. Handed over to Gestapo on November 6, 1942. Taken to Auschwitz in 1943. Was released.”
According to the artist behind the idea, Gunter Demnig, who also installed the stolpersteins in Munkkiniemi, “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten.”
There are over 67,000 stolpersteins in 22 countries around the world.
And there are more to be installed.