When I was student in Stuttgart, I had a room in a house owned by a couple of elderly sisters. I explained my connection to Stuttgart. This town had been recommended to me by my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother. I explained how Renate Edler, who later became my mother-in-law, had never known she was Jewish and had loved Stuttgart. Her grandmother lived there and was involved with a school that Renate would have very much liked to attend: the Waldorf School.
“Oh, what was the family name of the grandmother?” asked one of the sisters.
“Lehrs,” I said.
“Oh, Haus Lehrs. That is such an important place for us.”
It was only thirty-seven years later that I would really understand what she meant.
I gradually unpicked Renate’s story. I remembered what she told us about a school that the Nazis had tried to obliterate and how the “Dad’s Army” equivalent had refused to cooperate, then the Hitler Youth had also refused and it was left to the BDM, the girls’ equivalent of the Hitler Youth, who finally did set fire to the place but got the children out first.
That school must surely be the one that took place in Clara Lehrs’ house.
I became more and more interested in Clara. My first internet search brought me to the Stolperstein site: https://www.stolpersteine-stuttgart.de/biografien/clara-lehrs-schellbergstr-20/
A Stolperstein is 10 cm concert cube in which a brass plate is embedded, showing the name and dates of Nazi persecution or extermination. The word literally means “stumbling stone”. You are meant to “stumble” over it and stop and think. Metaphorically it portrays a stumbling block for humanity.
The first Stolperstein in London was laid on 30 May 2022.
On a trip to Rome in 2019, my group came across one as the owner of the house was just returning home and they were able to give us the full story.
Over 70,000 stones have been laid to date. Stuttgart and suburbs have over 1000.
I was invited to go and talk about my books in 2020. As you can imagine that didn’t happen. Just this week I have been contacted again. I’m anticipating a visit there sometime soon.