Senior Melissa Newman is a Wittenberg recipient of a Fulbright research grant, and will be in Germany for 10 months starting in September.
Newman, a history major with a German minor, first heard about the opportunity from her German professor, Timothy Bennett.
“He was the one that told me about it,” Newman said. “From there, I started talking to the other German professor, Dr. [David] Barry, who is the Fulbright adviser at this school, and he told me about the process and what I’d be expected to do and [helped in] figuring out what I wanted to do.”
There are two types of Fulbright scholarships: teaching English in other countries and a research grant. After Bennett suggested the research grant, Newman filled out the needed information, and was selected.
“It really wouldn’t have been possible without the advice and support from Dr. Bennett, Dr. Barry and Dr. Mattison,” Newman said. “They were instrumental in helping me put together an application worthy enough to be accepted, and I am exceedingly grateful for them.”
With this grant, Newman intends to “focus on the ways of presenting history,” especially through studying the acceptance and allowance of “stolperstein” in various German cities.
A stolperstein is a small golden cobblestone placed in the street in memory of a person who was killed in the Holocaust. The stone is put in the area in which the victim last lived, and there are over 50,000 stolperstein placed around 18 European countries.
Newman encountered the memorials when she studied abroad in Germany during spring semester of her junior year.
“I did not always notice them when I was walking through the streets of Germany. But once someone pointed them out to me, I saw them everywhere,” Newman said. “It becomes something you notice, and then you’re just drawn into it . . . It makes you automatically think about the Holocaust and about these people.”
However, it seems that not everyone in Germany is on board with these memorials.
“When I was studying abroad in Germany, I saw those in some of the random cities that we visited. One thing that really stuck me: I found out that Munich has a ban on placing them on public property,” Newman said. “One of the biggest opponents of the stolpersteina in Munich is a Holocaust survivor, because she feels that by having them planted in the ground, you could therefore tread on the memory of these victims, a very metaphorical yet at the same time real reason to oppose them. But at the same time, it’s an easy way to learn about history.”
Other large cities and small villages have also placed a ban on these stones being placed around town.
“It got me thinking about how we think about history and remember history,” Newman said. “Because Munich doesn’t really want this, it seems that there’s this issue or tension how we are responding to history and learning about it.”
Newman plans to study “on the ways of presenting history and how the stolpersteina bring a new element to the table with that,” but is open to let her ideas move as she further studies the way people remember history.