It turned out to be a whole package after all: From November 8-12, 2023, I spent four days in the appealing Bavarian city, which seemed particularly large to me this time. Until I rang the doorbell of my friend Terry, who lives in a small, dark red-painted terraced house in a quiet side street, I took a streetcar from the station, changed trains, rode on, walked along a lively street that interested me. Past its cafés and small stores, with enticing cobbled side streets and low rows of houses, I walked slowly, dragging the trolley case behind me, until I reached the bend and bridge where Terry lives. This part of the neighborhood would become surprisingly familiar to me, that’s how often I’d been there, we’d been there. Sometimes in a car of some kind.
The front door opened and as I entered, Terry limped towards me, smiling happily and on crutches. I knew about his recent knee operation, which had taken its toll. Terry led me straight ahead, showed me the guest toilet, the kitchen and led me down a step to the guest room. A room of my own – yay! All the essentials were in there, it was bright and clear, a window looked out onto the patio and there was a glimpse of a terrace on the second floor above.

Living with Terry is completely unproblematic. Everyone looks after themselves and can help themselves from the fridge and the contents of the cupboards, but Terry is (almost) always available. If you make food for more people than yourself, you leave something or let him know. After a short time, you have ideas about what food you could bring from the road. Terry cooks excellent meals, often for friends too. Only his recent knee-surgery made it less easy to do the shopping and stand for longer.

On Thursday, November 9, Remembrance Day, Terry had his hands full. A friend of the house drove me by car to the neighborhood where the first stumbling stones laying had just been completed. Several stones adorned the square in front of the doorstep – you couldn’t help but notice that every newcomer would step over these freshly shiny blocks, each engraved with the dates of a person’s life, along with the place or manner of birth and death.
… The name gets under our skin, especially when we read it aloud. But also when kneeling down to be able to read better.

There was an informal atmosphere, collected, serious, but without a strict ritual under a leader. A book with short biographies of those deported from this house was read in a certain order. Some of the group were visibly prepared and had left work or other commitments for this “service”, which they were clearly happy to perform. I bowed to those who had lived here, in this Munich house. I bowed to the house and its residents. Because in Munich, everyone in the house has to agree when it comes to laying these memorial stones. They were very controversial for a while. As far as I know, the dispute didn’t escalate any further because Terry and his friends refused to be intimidated and remained obliging and friendly. Where life and death are at stake, opinions are often hardened and must be acknowledged with the utmost respect, at least when the other side is also trying to reach an understanding.
I found it touching that I was also allowed to read what was written about a name, a person. The young man with the woolly hat pressed the book into my hand.

I remember walking around in this middle-class neighborhood, looking for a hot drink and a toilet, in the warm golden November light – with leaves gently swaying to the ground.

Someone drove me to the next stop, “Stolpersteine”, and I have to admit that while we were stuck in a traffic jam, we were chatting the whole time. A worker from the “good old days” drove me, during one of his breaks, a friend of Terry’s who had been involved in numerous creative political actions. We were both attuned and inspired when he let me out of the car and I caught sight of them: friends of the Stolperstein memorial. This time not directly on the threshold of a house, but in front of a fence, parallel to the sidewalk. Someone with a hat was kneeling on the cold sidewalk and working with practiced hands. The shiny golden stones had all been sunk, but the joints still had to be tamped down with earth to make the surfaces of the blocks smooth. The man stood up carefully and – I recognized the man I had only known from photos so far: Gunter Demnig, the inventor, manufacturer and artist of the “Stolpersteine”. I am impressed by good political and artistic ideas that lead to actions that involve many people: Old and young, people of all languages, Jews. They come from far and near to teach themselves where their loved ones lived. They appreciate learning about the last years of the deportees “on the spot”. Experiencing the devotion of mostly German friends of the project, which is expressed in many different ways, is certainly a moving experience. What began as a small grassroots movement has since grown into an internationally growing, decentralized movement, one of the core elements of which are the „Stolpersteine“. There are a few rules to follow in order to acquire them, give them away and have them laid

As I write, it is slowly getting warmer after the onset of winter at the end of April. In Munich, on the other hand, it got colder, not only in 2023, but also, I imagine, in 1944??? , when the Jews were driven out of their homes and sent to Dachau. But first we listen spellbound to Terry’s friend and cantor, Rabbi …., I am sorry to have forgotten his name, his voice so vibrant and full! – who sings movingly for all those who perished. I found the singing worthy and was happy for the Munich residents, who obviously had a hard time at times feeling and enduring the headwinds of the synagogue community and yet also withstanding them. Of course I would also hear numbers, in the evening and on the following days, but I can’t remember them. WHAT I did feel, however, was the inner involvement of those who were there, even at the events that would follow.

What I find brilliant about the memorial stones is that they can be experienced through the senses, that they radiate value (gold!), that you have to work with them, and that even young children can understand what each stone and the actions around it stand for. I saw photos and self-recorded videos of young people who devotedly sought out certain stones and cleaned them. Reading prayers and poems at such places in the city, singing or sitting in a circle and exchanging ideas is healing for everyone. You can make a pilgrimage from street to street, district to district, reading names aloud, moving them in your heart, while autobiographical texts from the Nazi era are read out in excerpts.

In the evening, our program continued at the Egyptian Museum, an architectural jewel. Friends of Terry were already preparing a few bar tables with drinks and snacks. It seemed to be a “family” of mostly older volunteers dedicated to these and other activities such as “Faces”. I met Gunter Demnig again in the museum, this time we exchanged a few words. He would later give a speech that moved me. He also had to endure a lot of contradiction and testified calmly and without pathos. Of course, he also had self-doubts from time to time, but he was always invited back, encouraged, supported by numerous friends and simply remained true to himself. If he could at all, he laid every single block himself.

Dr. Arnulf Schlüter, the director of the museum, was the first to speak, personally and movingly. There are also stumbling blocks on the first floor of the museum, he reported, and added to the events. It came alive for me, and I was shocked anew by how many people had to “come out” as Jews and feared for their lives from then on. What is always put into perspective after the Holocaust memorial days – because there were and still are streams of refugees – haunts me on November 9 as well as on other days, in January for example: the horror. The sadness. OUR neighbors, I keep thinking.

Diary entry 5.5.2024

Yesterday I read a sharp criticism of the Stolpersteine “per se”. A Jewish acquaintance told me of her opposition to them right at the start of the increasing number of relocations. On or even in the ground and in such a way that you could step on the names … that made her feel disgusted. The mere thought… I think about it: she’s not entirely wrong. Plaques on the walls of houses might have seemed more appropriate to her. On the other hand, many houses no longer exist or no longer exist as they once did. While the depiction of how many Jews lived in a particular street gets under your skin. Perhaps if we all made more of an effort to clean the memorial stones, decorate them with a flower, a candle…, then only a few very hasty and insensitive people (at least at that moment) would step on them, which unfortunately we can’t prevent anyway, not even ourselves. If we are honest. Nevertheless, the good motives and the reflection and empathy triggered before and during the installation outweigh the bad ones. The names, dates of birth and death of the deported people have been rescued from oblivion. The places where they were deported were also engraved, thus making the nefarious deed known and giving it a place and a context. At these places, they were called by name, their careers were read out, their merits, their significance for family and community. It is never too late to remember them, to show their importance and dignity (it was never lost!). We hardly understood the extent, but we sensed it, of the immense loss for their neighborhood, their district, for the whole city and for the German and ultimately European community. For life itself.

In these moments, as an invited mourner, you ask yourself, actively or passively, how you are ever supposed to cope with this shock, this enormous loss of life, beauty, creativity and humanity. I deliberately say: cope, because there can be no question of “mastering”, “overcoming” or even “forgetting”.
Our collective unconscious has stored these deeds and sufferings. Only through active repentance and transformation of the heart will we non-Jewish Germans whose relatives had not been active in the resistance be able to snatch the curse from the sea of forgetting and transform it, wave by wave, into a blessing of deep understanding and ultimately embrace. Really? Embrace?

I therefore hope that other critical voices from the synagogue community will also calm down because they will see and learn to appreciate the honest efforts to make mourning a public experience.

On the evening of 9/11, Terry’s friends were invited to the ASAM Gymnasium, which was within walking distance of his house. I hardly remember how I got there. I was at a loss for words during the event, which was organized by two male and two female students. They stood seriously with candles, in pairs, stepped forward from the deep darkness, put the candles down, took turns reading, with enough pauses. I miss them afterwards. The principal was very impressive. In the meantime, I’ve had a look around the school’s website and have to say: I’ve never seen such a creative, insightful teaching program. The serious density that I experienced, the atmosphere of the event room, which was filled to capacity. The composition, which ended with an impressive concert, unusual solo singing voices. The principal’s welcoming speech, the love, appreciation, understanding for his pupils, the educational mission and the daily work of actively remembering and protecting our Jewish brothers and sisters … – all of this was presented so consciously and calmly that my trip would have been worthwhile for this alone!

If I remember correctly, the pupils were allowed to choose which original entries from diaries, letters and literature by Jewish authors they would select and read for us. It was always about a “before” and an “after”. Before November 9th. Before the deportation. A traumatization so hideously motivated by racism: must it not almost inevitably lead to such a division, in the service of survival, that the stored impotent rage must be discharged as soon as the “right” occasion was given? Anyone who feels addressed here may wish to continue the thread.


On Friday morning I walked around the neighborhood, did a little shopping for Terry, because his ability to work with crutches, to cook, was limited. And he cooked fantastically! I remember shakshuka that I could have taken… I didn’t dare yet. Did I go shopping for him, or did I just want to? I don’t remember. However, I have images in my mind’s eye of the charming part of town, the side streets, some of them with cobblestones, where I saw flat terraced houses that reminded me of Holland, of Erlangen. I looked it up on Wikipedia and was amazed: I’m in Au-Haidhausen, a “trendy district on the Isar”, I read about shady beer gardens and green spaces. In this neighborhood alone, with one interesting store or café after another, there was so much to discover…. that I decided to come back. Only afterwards did I realize that I really needed time to process what I had experienced. Going to Dachau seamlessly, as I had actually planned, was simply not an option. Sitting longer in the morning, walking aimlessly, writing, reading, talking to Terry – some interesting friend wanted an interview with him, and I had answered the phone … that was on, and in the evening I was invited to “FACES”, somewhere in the city center, hopefully I would find it. “Kulturzentrum Gasteig” – can’t be that difficult. But it was. Which exit to take in this big city at the start of winter? I felt lost, wandering around.

“Faces is originally my invention,” Terry explained to me. Naturally, I was curious as to how I should imagine such an evening event. So far, I had seen photos and videos of portraits of those who had lived in the illuminated house projected onto the walls. But the atmosphere, the technology – I couldn’t imagine it. This time I wasn’t driven or accompanied in any way, and so I walked my heels off in the cold and rain. When I finally met the brave little group, I was thrilled by their spirit. Many had contributed to the event, something always had to be organized, dragged, there was a not too strict choreography, who spoke when, there was also singing, and very far up, so far up that I didn’t even see the pictures at first, I then saw them: against the black of the night sky, these touching portraits of those who never wanted to forget. We learned the details of each person’s life, so that they came to life for us, the witnesses.
It was a bit too loud for me. The nearby noise of the traffic and the conversations with each other interfered with my need to see fewer photos and “contemplate” them. For the first time, the Zen practitioner in me, who would have loved to make an event of silence out of it, came forward. I would also have liked to linger longer at the stumbling stones, “sitting, walking, sitting, sharing from the heart”.

That still remains for me! I’m going to move it within me and look out for stumbling blocks in Bonn that tell a story through their sheer number or location.

Terry suggested that I shouldn’t drive that far to Dachau on Saturday. A very important cemetery would almost “give away” more, in his opinion. My google research proved him right. However, my decision was clear: I had to spend a whole day in Dachau. For my friend. For all the people we had learned about on 9.11. The majority of them had to go to Dachau. Yesterday, my research revealed that it was the men who were sent to this concentration camp. This extremely shocking and sad news, delivered by schoolchildren from the ASAM grammar school, would motivate and accompany me on my penultimate day in Munich.

The cemetery suggested by Terry:
Afterwards, I had to agree with Terry: On my next visit to Munich, I would go to the Perlach Cemetery AND the Dachau Memorial, but only with a guide and two concerns that I could begin to feel deeply: Practicing long walking meditations. Organize two ceremonies in Dachau, with long sitting meditation, recitation (zazen), writing intuitively, council. I “see” a well-structured offer of two days, possibly two and a half, including a “Stumbling Stones” unit.
Numerous resistance fighters of the White Rose are buried in the same cemetery.

It had not been easy to leave in the afternoon of November 12. Should I have made an effort to see that cemetery? I did not do that. Instead, I got out of the tram, earlier than I should, as I felt like walking some streets, in order to feel Munich on Sunday. The streets without traffic were full with families, and I admired some architectural pearls. Next time I would want to spend time in one of the museums. Go the recommended cemetery and cook something for Terry and a friend. Thank you for your hospitality, dear friend!

Danke Terry, für Deine und Gunters so inspirietende Arbeit, mit Herzblut und versöhnlicher Freundschaft, auch und besonders mit uns Deutschen und Deutschsprachigen!

Danke Terry, für Deine und Gunters so inspirietende Arbeit, mit Herzblut und versöhnlicher Freundschaft, auch und besonders mit uns Deutschen und Deutschsprachigen!


Photo-Album Holocaust Memorial Days in Munich Nov. 2023

Monika Winkelmann
Author, writing coaching, acompaniment
Group pedagogy/therapy (TZI- Ruth Cohn)
Poetry pedagogy (zert. Institut f. Kreatives Schreiben-Prof. Lutz von Werder)
Meditation & Mindfulness: Zen intensiv since 2011
Zenpeacemaker Orden (Bernie Glassman Roshi)