By Anne-Françoise and Sarah W
There are 458 Stolpersteine around Brussels. On April 27th, for Yom HaShoah, armed with gloves, metal polish and sponges, we set out to “Make Their Memory Shine” — a day-long marathon of scrubbing the “stumbling stones” marking the former homes of people deported and killed in the Holocaust. The “Make Their Memory Shine” movement is pan-European, started by Jewish students and initiated by Stand With Us Nederland. Its goal is to bring together communities to clean all Stolpersteine across formerly Nazi-occupied Europe. There are probably other initiatives of the kind, but we understand that it is the first coordinated one.
The IJC contingent (Sarah W, Sarah S, Mattia and Anne-Françoise, accompanied by a friend, Iris) cleaned up 13 markers in 10 locations around Beth Hillel, through Forest and into Place Brugmann, while Ingo took charge of a set in Woluwe St. Lambert.
The event started at the Jewish Museum, with a commemoration ceremony. Guest speakers included Brussels Mayor Philippe Close, Costel Nastasie (President of "Roma Dignity") and Shoah survivor and FJO President Regina Suchowolski-Sluszny — not to mention Ethan Bergman, the Founder of the MTMS initiative.
Before departing to our allocated spots, a moment of remembrance was organized in front of some of the stones on Rue Haute, where some people trying to get into the Lidl took some time to look at the photos of the family that had lived there (others, of course, just kept on walking, unperturbed by just another Brussels sidewalk disturbance). At our own assigned spots, we were to not only clean the stones but to write messages in chalk around them, such as “Make Their Memory Shine”, “Clean The Hate”, “Never Forget”.
It was a beautiful activity, a powerful moment, set on a sunny day (we were indeed lucky…). We walked a bit more than 5 km and spent a very nice time all together while doing something that matters, honoring not just Jewish concentration camp victims but also several resistance fighters who were executed for their bravery.
We also had the opportunity to exchange with some passers-by who asked us what we were doing. Sometimes our cleaning would draw their attention to the stones themselves or encouraged them to ask what they actually were. We received kind words of encouragement from these people — one guy who lived in a house once inhabited by women who died in Auschwitz even offered to clean the stones himself next year.
About 80 people participated in this clean-up event! Based on the enthusiastic response from IJC members, we hope it will be repeated on that scale in the future, and that those of you who couldn't take part this year can do so next time.