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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Remembrance and odds-and-ends

As a way to get to know the city (and kill time and calories), I am prone to wander aimlessly through the streets and alleys (not so much the latter since I've discovered scooping up dog poop is met with a very meh approach here in Oslo).  During my sojourners, I have discovered various little "gold markers" on the ground.  At first, I didn't really pay attention to it because, well, there's a lot of random signs and markers in Norway (That tends to happen in places with thousands of years of history).

However, one afternoon, I passed a series of them and, since I really wasn't in that big of a hurry, I decided to actually read what it said.  The first word that jumped out at me was "Auschwitz", which needs no hyperlink as everyone knows the name as that of the largest, concentration camp run during World War II.  

The rest of the marker gave the name of the individual and listed that they had, indeed, died at the aforementioned internment camp.

As this was unusual, I went home to research this phenomenon to see if it was an isolated plaque or whether it was part of a larger network.

The formal name is Stolperstein (German for "Stumbling block", it is spelled Snublesteiner in Norwegian) and they're monuments created by Gunter Demnig, a German artist, to commemorate individual victims of Nazism all over the European continent.  

Naturally, Oslo, the largest city and initial target of German invasion in April 1940, has the most Stoplerstein/Snublesteiner of any Norwegian city.  I've come across ten so far in my travels, including the first one which sparked my follow-up on the subject

Her name was Ruth Maier, an Austrian Jewish woman, who sought refuge in Oslo in April 1939 and, as the memorial denotes, she was deported for Auschwitz in 1942, where she died later that same year.

Maier is known as "Norway's Anne Frank" as she, too, kept an extensive diary detailing the horrors and atrocities that befell her in her homeland and the harrowing escape to a believed safe harbor only for it to not be so.  Her lesser acclaim can be attributed to the fact that it took 65 years for her writing to reach publication (in German and Norwegian), 67 for it to be in English.

But now I know of her and her life that happened a short walk from my apartment.  It's good to know of history and not to forget it.


- As a follow-up to my remark about the civic pride and holidays, two weeks ago, comes even more.  A Norwegian associate of mine told me that a Norwegians favorite month of the year is May because there's hardly any working days.  While this was said in jest, it's easy to see where the joke is derived.  The following are holidays where a vast majority of the country is shut down:  Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day (May 9), Constitution Day (May 17), and Pentecost (May 20)

- So, it seems like Michael Moore loves Norway

- It's comforting to know that no matter how obnoxious you may think this blog seems at times, it will never compare to this guy

- While we're on the point of exploitation, I love how many Norwegians think of Americans in terms of this video... When, based on my "limited exposure", an extremely small number of Norwegians could place my home state on the map or articulate much about it even though it has a larger population than Norway (and it's a pretty notable state with an infamous TV series based on it's largest city... it's not like South Dakota or Wyoming)

So, as I wrap this up, I want to give a shout out to all the youngsters in Russ.  Step. Up. Your. Game!   Not once have I been awakened by drunken hooliganism, not once have I had to step over a passed out teenager, and not once have I felt a twinge of jealousy for not having as cool of a senior tradition... Class of 2013, you better bring the noise tomorrow on Constitution Day


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