Although Gunter Demnig has been laying Stumbling Stones regularly since 2000, it took until October 2005 for the first Stumbling Stone to be laid in the district of Göppingen. Pia Hellweg, a high school student in Göppingen at the time, researched the fate of Albert Schuler, who was murdered by the Nazi regime because of his political opposition, with the support of her history teacher. The positive response to the first laying motivated Klaus Maier-Rubner, who had already been involved with local historical aspects, to get involved in the Stolpersteine project. In Claudia Liebenau-Mayer, who had researched and published about Jewish women’s fates during the Nazi era, he found a competent comrade-in-arms. Supported by citizen volunteers, further fates were researched, with the result that Gunter Demnig was able to lay seven Stumbling Stones in Göppingen in February 2017.

In the first phase, the later Initiative Stolpersteine e.V. was largely guided by existing publications from the Göppingen municipal archives, whose director at the time, Dr. Karl-Heinz Rueß, had done basic work. At the same time as the Göppingen initiative, the Eislingen city councilor Peter Ritz suggested laying Stumbling Stones for the Jewish Plawner family in Eislingen, which was also realized in April 2007. A few months later, in February 2008, Stumbling Stones were also added in Süßen. Here the initiative came from the then mayor Martin Bauch, who was still in contact with descendants of the expelled Jewish families.

In Göppingen, the Stolpersteine Initiative was able to invite people to Stumbling Stones installations every year for the next decade, often succeeding in contacting descendants in advance and inviting them to the installation. Independently of the Initiative Stolpersteine Göppingen, Stumbling Stones were laid in Ebersbach in 2018 for the Neumann family, who were temporarily in hiding; the impulse for this came from the Ebersbach city archive.

In the following years employees of the Initiative Stolpersteine Göppingen also began to deal with the fate of persecuted persons who came from other communities in the district. As a result, more Stumbling Stones were laid in Süßen, Eislingen and Wäschenbeuren. Members of the Göppingen initiative also helped with research on the forced residence Schloss Weißenstein/Lauterstein, as well as with research for Stuttgart Stolpersteine.

It has long been possible to read Stumbling Stones biographies from the district in German or English on the website of the Goeppingen Initiative. In 2018, the bilingual book on the Stumbling Stones laid in Göppingen until then was published. While in the beginning Stumbling Stones were laid exclusively for murdered people, in subsequent years family members who managed to escape were also to be taken into account. With one exception, the memorial stones were laid in front of the last voluntarily chosen residence.

The Initiative Stolpersteine tries to do justice to all groups of victims. In the district of Göppingen, there are now 116 Stumbling Stones for people who were considered Jews according to Nazi criteria, plus two for their non-Jewish spouses. Two stones commemorate political opponents, four stones were set for a murdered Sinti family, one for a person who was considered socially undesirable by the Nazis. Four stones commemorate people who were murdered as mentally ill ¬ two of them also had a Jewish family background. One Stumbling Stone is dedicated to a young man who was murdered because of his sexual orientation. In total, there are 128 Stumbling Stones in the district of Göppingen. In addition, there is the ‘Stumbling Sill’ set in Geislingen in 2018, which commemorates the Jewish forced laborers who were interned in the concentration camp subcamp and had to work at the WMF company. The research on this is owed to the historian Sybille Eberhardt.

(October 2023 kmr)