SEPTEMBER 21, 2017 – BOSTON – The power of remembrance was on full display last week as a group of Malden High School students and teachers held an informal ceremony to honor victims of the Shoah at the New England Holocaust Memorial.
Students took the initiative after they were troubled by the recent arrest of a 17-year-old Malden juvenile who allegedly shattered a pane of glass at the memorial with a stone.
Giovanna Lanciani, a senior, said she and other students were especially disturbed and surprised that a student they know was arrested for the vandalism.
“We wanted to put that aside and make something positive out of it,” she told the Journal. “This does not represent all of us. It only represents one person’s actions. We wanted to make up for that.”
The students and teachers were accompanied by Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and school Superintendent John Oteri. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh greeted the group, and applauded the students for taking a stand against the vandalism.
In a solemn ceremony along the path that leads to the memorial, several students read short biographical obituaries about local survivors. Several of the students lost family members in the Holocaust, and are grandchildren of survivors.
Local Holocaust survivors spoke with the students, and included Anna Ornstein, professor emeritus at Harvard University and author of “My Mother’s Eyes: Holocaust Memories of a Young Girl”; Janet Applefield and memorial co-founder Israel Arbeiter.
The Holocaust memorial left a big impression on Malden student Birukti Tsige, who said she hopes to return soon for another visit with her whole family.
For Malden student Hajar El Khafaoui, the excursion and ceremony reflects the school’s true spirit and its rich diversity. “He [the student accused of the vandalism] does not represent Malden,” she said. “We represent Malden.”
Later, the Malden visitors attended a reception for the formal opening of “Stumbling Stones: Remembrance and Social Sculpture,” an exhibit presented by the Consulate General of Germany in Boston in cooperation with Aktives Museum, in Germany.
This is the first time the Stumbling Stones exhibit has been shown outside of Germany, according to Consul General Ralf Horlemann. The exhibit is on view on the mezzanine of Boston City Hall through September 28. After, it will travel to Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Horlemann and Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim welcomed visitors to the exhibit.
Stumbling stones, or stolpersteine, in German, was conceived more than 20 years ago by Cologne artist Gunter Demnig as a way to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. Each stone is engraved with the name and details of victims of the Holocaust and then embedded in the sidewalk outside of each individual’s last known and voluntary residence.
Since beginning in 1996, in Berlin, stolpersteine have now been placed in more than 900 cities across 20 European countries, with 61,000 stones, Horlemann said.