‘Traces of Remembrance’ project trails across Europe

In October, a long painted purple line connects the road leading from Grafeneck, Germany to the Ministry of the Interior in downtown Stuttgart.

The line marks the locations where thousands of handicapped persons were put to death during the Nazi regime in World War II and was part of the “Trace of Remembrance” campaign.

Altogether, the line, which started in Grafeneck on Oct. 13 and ended in Stuttgart on Oct. 16, passed about 20 cities, towns and communities with more than 17 groups participating in various events. The events included lectures, exhibitions, educational programs and school discussions.

Residents of the greater Stuttgart area, including U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, gathered outside the Stuttgart Army Airfield Oct. 15 to remember and continue painting the purple line.

The volunteer-run campaign launched in 2009, under the theme “Educate, participate, remember and reflect: laying traces.”

The focus of the project was the 70-kilometer line, painted on roads by citizens, students and city officials in each community along the way. About 1,500 kilograms of purple paint was used to draw the line, painted to remind people of what happened during the war, so that they will always remember these crimes against humanity.

In Grafeneck, a small town close to Metzingen, the handicapped had a home in a former castle that, under Adolf Hitler, was turned into a concentration camp and became the central point of the Nazi-enforced murders.According to records provided by the Tübingen court, 10,654 people were murdered in Grafeneck in 1940.  Employees of the Ministry of the Interior at the Karl’s Square in Stuttgart planned the murders on paper, earning them the title “desk murderers.”

At the SAAF, representatives from Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Filderstadt and the Karl-Schubert-Working Group for the handicapped, as well as students from the Eduard-Spranger- Gymnasium, the Jahnschule, and the Bildungszentrum Seefälle were also in attendance.

“We chose this site to remember the crimes against humanity during the Nazi regime because the memorial site for victims of the former concentration camp in Echterdingen is located here,” said Gabriele Dönig-Poppensieker, lord mayor of Filderstadt.

“We are able to emphasize the importance of not forgetting the past and meditate on what happened to the victims to cultivate remembrance on this special memorial site,” she added.

After a dance performed by students of the Karl-Schubert-Working Group, Col. Richard M. Pastore, USAG Stuttgart Commander, emphasized the principle that every human being is equal. “We cannot afford to forget. We [the Armed Forces] stand united in firm respect that nothing like this will ever happen again,” Pastore said.

During the event, students from the Eduard-Spranger-Gymnasium and the Education Center Seefälle read poems from Erich Fried and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The Jahnschule presented artwork: a wooden board with nails representing the memory of the victims. “It is a very sensitive topic and very difficult to understand. Learning and dealing with this part of history helps us to reflect and makes us more appreciative of life itself,” explained Lisa Krautheim, a 9th-grader from Jahnschule.

“The intent of the “Trace of Remembrance” project was to make students aware of history and also of living together with handicapped individuals today. Awareness and learning from history are the most important things,” said Wolfgang Schiegg, history teacher at the Eduard-Spranger-Gymnasium in Filderstadt.

Students from the Education Center Seefälle continued painting the purple line. “We painted the purple trace from Filderstadt Bonlanden to Bernhausen and it was a great experience to be part of this project,” said Steffen Geis, 9th-grader from Seefälle.

The Rev. Rainer Kiess, minister at the protestant congregation in Bernhausen, encouraged participants to never forget the past. “Every meter of color is a step against forgetting and for life,” he said. “Remembering the past is prevention.”

For more information on the “Trace of Remembrance” project, visit www.spur-der-erinnerung.de.