Holocaust memorial ‘stumble stones’ stolen in Rome

Artists' street memorial to holocaust victims reported stolen overnight.

Holocaust memorial 'stumble stones' stolen in Rome
Two 'stumble stones' in Rome. Photo: Catherine Edwards/The Local

Twenty of the special paving stones, dedicated to Jews who were deported to Nazi death camps, were stolen from a street in the Rome district of Monti overnight, the association that installed them, Associazione Arte in Memoria, said today.

The stones, created by German artist Gunter Demnig, were laid in Via Madonna dei Monti in January 2012 and devoted to 20 members of the Di Consiglio family. 

The family was among the worst affected in Rome, not only in the raid on the Ghetto on October 16, 1943, but also in the raid on March 21, 1944, when more than 20 members of the family were killed or sent to Auschwitz.

Each stone commemorates a Holocaust victim, with a simple inscription on the gold-plated stone, which is laid outside the person's former home.

These stones form just a tiny part of a project that's been running for more than 20 years, spanning eight countries, with over 40,000 stones.

There are – or were – some 200 of the stones in Rome, and dozens in other Italian cities.

Adachiara Zevi, President of the Associazione Arte in Memoria, told Italian media the group had been threatened with the theft of the stones.

“I am overwhelmed, it is an unspeakable thing: this act fulfils the threats that the Association and myself as president received last July,”

“But these stones continue to tell the truth to all those who pass.”

The theft, believed to be an anti-semitic attack, comes as a new EU study reports a rise in attacks against Jews.

Rome mayor Virginia Raggi said on Twitter that the theft was “unacceptable. A gesture that I condemn with force and deep indignation. Memory demands respect.”

The artist behind the project, Cologne-born Gunter Demning, wanted to give back a name to the victims who had been reduced to a number, returning them symbolically to the home and neighbourhood that was snatched from them.

They are called Stumble Stones, Stolpersteine in German, because the idea is that you literally stumble over the slightly raised cobbles, and are forced to remember.

Demning says that stooping down to read the details is a kind of bow of respect to the victims.



New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.