Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Micheline van Riemsdijk

Committee Members

Joshua Inwood, Ronald Foresta, GIlya Schmidt

Abstract

Geographers have long been interested in the ways that states and individuals use cultural landscapes to shape the meaning and understanding of the past. In this thesis, I argue that individuals and the state embed different interpretations of the Holocaust past in the German landscape. In particular, I focus on the German artist Gunter Demnig and his Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) Project as a case study of memorial projects created by an individual. The Stolpersteine are small memorial stones for a single Holocaust victim. The stones are installed in front of homes and businesses that were the last known location of the victim before deportation or murder by the Nazi regime. While the project began as a small art installation to memorialize Romany Holocaust victims in Cologne, the memorial stones are now installed for all victims of the Holocaust, including Jews, Roma, Sinti, the handicapped, homosexuals, political opponents, euthanasia victims, and others. I compare the Stolpersteine Project to three large Holocaust memorial projects in Berlin that were sponsored by the German government.

This project incorporates qualitative methods to research the ways that Demnig creates meaning in the landscape and to observe how people respond to the Stolpersteine. The findings provide insights into how cultural landscapes are produced and also contribute to the literature on landscape studies and memorial processes. I explain how the Stolpersteine fit into the broader context of Holocaust memorialization through an explanation of the scholarly debate on how to represent the Holocaust.

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