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The “Stolpersteine” project of German artist Gunter Demning has marked the houses of Jewish, gay, and Jehovah’s Witnesses victims throughout Germany. The first black victim will soon be honored in Berlin.
Three Stolpersteine, or “stumbling blocks,” in Berlin mark the former residences of Nazi victims. For the first time, an African victim of the Nazis will be honored with one of the over 12,500 copper monument markers spread throughout Germany by a German artist to mark the former residences of Nazi victims.
The 10-centimeter-square brass plaques known as stolpersteine (or “stumbling blocks”) have been set in the pavement in front of victims’ houses by Cologne-based artist Gunter Demning. The markers have been almost exclusively for Jewish victims of the Holocaust, though there are some for homosexual and Jehovah’s Witnesses victims of the Nazis as well.
The stone will be placed in front of the house on Brunnenstrasse in Berlin’s Mitte neighborhood formerly occupied by Mahjub bin Adam Mohamed, a Sudanese man, who enlisted as a soldier in the colonial forces of then German East Africa. In 1929 Mahjub moved to Berlin, where he worked as a waiter in an upscale hotel while holding bit roles in 20 films from 1934 to 1941.
In 1941, Mahjub was arrested by the Nazi authorities and accused of miscegenation. He died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin on Nov. 24, 1944.
The placement of the stone coincides with the release of a biography, “Truthful Till Death,” about Mahjub written by Africa scholar Marianne Bechhaus-Gerst.
Although black people were not systematically murdered by the Nazis, they did suffer from persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality and murder, according to the online Holocaust Encyclopedia of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The stones usually include the victim’s name, year of birth, year and place of death — if available — and the caption “Here lived.” They can be found in over 270 cities and towns in Germany, though Munich has not allowed them to be placed there, arguing they could become the focus of anti-Semitic activities.
In the last few months, stones have also been placed outside of Germany in cities such as Salzburg, Austria, and Budapest, Hungary, according to the project’s Web site. There are also plans to commemorate Dutch Holocaust victims at the end of November. In 2006 the Polish authorities revoked an earlier decision to allow the group place some stones in Poland.