The laying of the UK’s first “stolperstein” memorial, which was supposed to take place this week in central London, has been delayed due to the coronavirus lockdown – despite exceeding its crowdfunding target.
More than £3,000 has been raised for the laying of the stone in Golden Square, Soho, which will commemorate Ada Van Danzig, a Dutch painting conservator who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943.
However, a laying ceremony due to take place on 4 June has now been delayed until 2021.
Morwenna Blewett, a fellow of history at Oxford University who organised the campaign, said she was “very disappointed” that the stone-laying could not go ahead, as the surviving family of Ms Van Danzig, who wanted to attend the ceremony, are quite elderly.
She had initially been worried she wouldn’t raise the funds needed after Westminster Council said they would not waive their £1,100 fee – but she added she had been “absolutely bowled over with the response” to the appeal.
“Stolperstein” – literally “stumbling stone” – originated in Cologne as the brainchild of German artist Gunter Demnig, and mark the homes and workplaces of those killed by the Nazis with small plaques in the ground bearing their names.
Ms Van Danzig had worked with Helmut Ruhemann, a consultant restorer at the National Gallery, at his studio in Golden Square in the 1930s before the Second World War, as one of three apprentices. Another was famed mid-century artist Nigel Henderson.
After war broke out, she travelled to France, despite pleas it was not safe, to locate her family, who were attempting to escape from the Netherlands to Switzerland. In 1943, she was arrested and transported to Auschwitz where, on February 11, she was murdered.
Ms Blewett said the reason for there not being any stolperstein in the UK yet “is because, obviously, we were not occupied, and so the removal of people from their houses or their places of work didn’t generally happen here.
“However, the stolperstein concept is based on people having to leave their last address of choice, whether it be work or housing, directly induced by Nazism.”
Ms Blewett added Ms Van Danzig counted as “she would not have left if war had not broken out, if the Nazi regime had not started to work its way through Europe, if her parents and siblings weren’t terrified enough to attempt to escape.”
Any extra money raised will be donated to the Wiener Holocaust Library in Ms Van Danzig’s name.
The stolperstein JustGiving page can be found here.