Lest we forget…

When Lois and I walk to the gym in the mornings, along the via Bovio, beside the gardens of our apartment, we have lately passed three small and gleaming bronze plaques set into the pavement. They appeared there a few weeks ago and are among the 50 or so pietre di inciampo, ‘stumbling stones,’ commissioned by the city to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and to commemorate those tragic ‘lost souls’ taken by the Nazis in 1944 and sent to concentration camps.

The same size as cobblestones (about 10 cm x 10 cm), the bronze plaques have engraved on them the names of the victims and the dates of their birth, capture and death. Above is Lois’ picture of two of them, outside Number 1 via Bovio, which remember Giorgio Levi delle Trezze and Xenia Haya Poliakov, while outside Number 7, the plaque remembers Lucia Levi. It was not just Jews who were taken in those dreadful times, but also people from the Roma and Sinti communities, and homosexuals, and political dissidents. The stumbling stones were originally created by the German artist, Gunter Demnig, who envisioned a unique way to pay an enduring tribute to those so cruelly persecuted.

Perhaps the most horrifying story is highlighted by the six ‘stones’ outside 29 via del Gelsomino. The newspaper La Repubblica takes up the story: “One recalls the life of Rabbi Rodolfo Levi, who was captured by the Nazis on February 6, 1944. While meeting a friend, he was confronted by a Nazi and forced to tell where his family was. His wife Rina Procaccia and daughter Noemi, hidden by the Morandi family, were taken. Those captured in the apartment included Sinigaglia family members: Angelo, his wife (Rina’s sister Amelia Procaccia) and her 11-year-old daughter Alda. They all lost their lives at the Auschwitz and Mauthausen concentration camps that year.”

No doubt the plaques will lose their shine as time goes on. Perhaps the names will become unintelligible. But every time we and our neighbours walk past now, we will remember those other neighbours of 75 years ago, and vow that it will never happen again.

Picture: The Jewish community of Florence.


  1. Alasdair Williamson says

    I was born on 16th April 1944 during the period of these murders. I have never been to Auswich but I will never forget my visit to Dachau in 1980. After 2 wonderful days of Oktoberfest, meeting and liking some really nice, friendly Germans we paid a visit to the former camp. Of course it wasn’t like the conditions in the 30s and 40s but, nonetheless, we were all deeply affected and had no desire to continue our long weekend holiday at Oktoberfest.
    The world must never forget! But also, the world needs to know that the British Military invented Concentration Camps and were responsible for the atrocious deaths of thousands of Boer women and children. That is our shame!

    • Good morning Alasdair and thank you for your moving and very thoughtful comment. I don’t normally do posts like the one you’ve commented on, but those simple memorials in the pavement really bring home the dreadful events. Literally, since these people lived within a stone’s throw from where we live now. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us. With very best wishes Bill Breckon.

  2. Otto Meth-Cohn says

    Hi Bill and Lois

    Not sure if yu remember Otto and Jean from one of your early workshops with Fabio Cembranelli and his Brazilian cohort. Well I came to England in 1939 aged 4 on the Kindertransport, while my loving mother ended up in Auschwitz sadly.
    Not too long ago I returned to Ulm on my 80th anniversary of leaving, where Gunter Demnig laid three Stolpersteins – for my mother, stepfather ….. and for me – outside where we had lived in Ulm, Germany. I think I might be the only person with a memorial while still alive! I’m sending a photo by email as I can’t find an easy way to attach it here. Encouraged by Bill’s writing endeavours I’ve written the whole story in a short book – The nearly man – published by Amazon.

    • Dear Otto. Thank you for your moving note: yes we certainly remember you and Jean from all those years ago, very fondly. We read your book and we were moved by that too — and inspired by your life’s story. If I may, I would like to include your note in a further blog and Facebook post. Is that alright with you? The pictures arrive safely by email by the way. With warm regards to you both Lois and Bill

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