This is possibly the most well-known of such a project, connecting present space to its past through individual victims of nazism. The concept is very simple: a small cube, the size of a cobblestone, is covered in brass and engraved with the details of the victim; their name, dates and place of birth, death and deportation, depending on how much information is known. This memorial is then inserted into the pavement outside their former home or workplace. The project was started by Demnig in Germany and now it has extended to many countries, including Italy, Hungary and Austria. Over 30.000 Stolpersteine have now been installed across Europe.
The German word “Stolperstein” means an obstacle, something “getting in the way”. Figuratively, pedestrians on their way to a given destination stumble across the stones and this unexpected interruption develops historical understanding.
The Stolpersteine keep alive the memory of those who were persecuted and killed during nazism: Jews, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, disabled people, members of the resistance during World War II and many more. Realising the project over the long term requires active cooperation between many different groups in civil society, which plays a big role in its success. Private individuals, schools, volunteers, NGOs, contemporary witnesses and relatives of the victims contribute either by donations (each Stolperstein is sponsored), researching biographical details, or maintaining and cleaning the memorials.
This concept engages groups of young people from different cities in Moldova and Ukraine, among others, with their local history, encouraging them to think critically about sites and monuments they may not have even noticed before.
By participating in a short workshop (between 2-7 days) young people research the history, architecture and significance of local landmarks, they first visit them and then get to work on making a short documentary about their findings. During the project, participants not only learn about places of historical importance, but also involve others in the learning process, which importantly encourages them to reflect and critically examine how these monuments relate to the present. The final results of the project, a short film-clip put the monument in a context, detailing its purpose and intention, any controversies surrounding it, but it also features interviews with local people who pass by the site, exploring their views on the monument; how much do they know about it? What is its effect? Is it still relevant today?
Participants acquire practical skills to share their knowledge and engage the public through filming and editing the short documentary. These films make a connection between past and present and generate wider discussion on how local communities deal with their history.
This year International Young Nature Friends decided to mark the occasion of International Day against Fascism and Antisemitism in a creative way. IYNF members organised an Urban Art Action at the John Lennon Wall in Prague. The idea of the action was to invite everybody to learn how to make their own stencils, play with a spray-can and create their own positive urban art.
For this purpose, members of the organisation prepared different kinds of stencils in advance with antifascist symbols and signs.
The action was aimed at commemorating the past and protesting against contemporary forms of fascism and discrimination.
Israelitische Kultusgemedine commemorated 9th November by organising a street action to give an impression of the illuminated sky in Vienna on this night in 1938 – focusing on 16 locations in a single district of the city (Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district). The action, entitled “Nacht der erhellten Synagogen” (“Night of Illuminated Synagogues”) also included a solemn vigil at each of those 16 places, where synagogues and praying rooms were once filled with Jewish life.
Members of youth organisations lit candles, forming a “Light of Hope” and marched from the main synagogue to the final ceremonial location where the beautiful Leopoldstädter Tempel once stood. On their way they met with other groups coming from the 16 illuminated places. After their arrival, the loudspeaker was turned on and the audience heard the names of murdered Viennese Jews with the sound of breaking glass in the background, immediately followed by the sound of a horn playing Kaddish from the first floor of a small synagogue nearby.
The event ended with short speeches, as well as video greetings from VIPs and politicians.
The Julian Tuwim Youth Palace in Łódź, together with the “NEVER AGAIN” Association, organised the sixth “Różni i Równi” (“Different and Equal”) concert. This event was held as part of the “Music Against Racism” campaign. The aim of this annual concert is to promote young musicians from the Łódź region and to propagate the idea of fighting against racism and antisemitism. There were other concerts connected with the International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism, organised under the “NEVER AGAIN” Association’s motto of “Music Against Racism”, in Warsaw, Świdnica, Ząbkowice Śląskie, Dzierżoniów, Gliwice, Oświęcim, Oświęcim, Oświęcim, Piła and Rzeszów.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia hosted the round table “Resistance to Extremism” in Belgrade’s Aero Club. Chairman of the Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality Committee Meho Omerovic, commissioner for the Protection of Equality Nevena Petrusic, ISC Chief of Party Bogdan Gavanski and Chairwoman of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia Sonja Biserko delivered opening speeches and welcomed the participants.
The round table discussed legislation and practice for countering violence, hate speech and hate crimes, women rights vs. ideology of right-wing extremist organisations, the relationship between rightist organisations and the Serbian Orthodox Church, and common targets and motives of right-wing violence. In light of a series of debates on right-wing extremism the committee held in Vojvodina throughout 2014, the round table specifically focused on tolerance and intolerance in Vojvodina. President of the Assembly of Vojvodina’s Committee on European Integration and Interregional Cooperation Maja Sedlarevic, President of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina Dinko Gruhonjic and politicologist Pavel Domonji addressed the issue.
Authors of the publication (politicologist Pavel Domonji, sociologist Srdjan Barisic, lawyer Ivana Stjelja and historian Milivoj Beslin) launched the publication “Extremism: How to Recognize a Social Evil”, which was then distributed to all the participants. Executive director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia Izabela Kisic presented the goals of “Resistance to Extremism”, a newly established coalition of nongovernmental organizations.
The round table was organised under the project “Civil Society Initiative against Hate Crime and Hate Speech” the Helsinki Committee has been realising with the assistance of the Institute for Sustainable Communities.
In the city of Breda in the Netherlands a set of symbolic commemorative activities was jointly organised by the city hall, all the religion confessions represented in the community and guest speakers. In the afternoon the movie “Bon Dieu” was screened at Chasse Cinema. After the film, viewers participated in a discussion about the film led by Ben Kortman and Gemmy van Laere. In the evening, a commemoration ceremony was organised at the Jewish Monument, with the Mayor Mr. Van der Velden representing the municipality of Breda. In the evening there was choir singing in the cathedral followed by speeches and candle-lighting. Afterwards people carrying candles took a symbolic walk to the synagogue while the church bells of the cathedral rang, leading the procession towards the Grote Markt, where the bells of the Grote Kerk were ringing.
The walk to the synagogue, to the Valkenberg and mosque was accompanied by violin, accordion and Zwei Bruder songs.
At the mosque, the imam read a commemorative prayer.
The Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor Office have produced a very strong and outspoken video that can be seen here:
The message of the video is that even though fascism is a disputed term, there are certain associations connected to it, and it has taken root in many societies over the past century. Fascist groups and ideologies severely endanger individuals’ needs and rights. Consequently it seems very important to speak up against discriminative and oppressive speech and behaviour towards individuals or groups. We should all have the right to express ourselves freely as well as to choose our own lifestyles, as long as no one else’s rights are violated. We strongly feel that no human being should be discriminated against because of his or her beliefs, sexual orientation, identity or heritage. This short film is intended to raise awareness of the fact that many people’s rights to freedom of speech, life, liberty security, and freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as many others, are still seriously violated. To show that those voices have to be raised, but are still endangered when speaking up in public, anonymous voices were used to declare human needs and demands. All our voices have to be heard!
On the occasion of the International Day against Fascism and Antisemitism, Women in Black organised and participated in a number of activities. Among these activities was the protest “(Self-)Censorship – the Road to Fascism” on Terazije Square in Belgrade at the monument to antifascists who were hanged by nazi troops during the Second World War. The protest included the performance action “Be the East and West”. Two banners were displayed at the protest:
Antifascism is my choice
Women in Black against fascism
The performance was focused around large newspaper sheets on which the words “(self-)censorship” were written. Activists were first covered with these sheets, and then they slowly shed the pages and walked through them, thus symbolically freeing themselves from censorship. They also sang anti-fascist songs together with the Association of Serbian Antifascists.
The performance was aimed at highlighting the dangerous threat to freedom of expression, press freedom and the work of independent institutions in Serbia. This has been manifested through the prevention of critical thought about any social topic or about the work of the government and the prime minister by censorship of the media and hacking of blogs and websites, opening space for totalitarianism and fascism.