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Artist behind small-scale Holocaust memorials to accept German honor



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BERLIN, Sept 4 (AFP) - An artist who has worked to preserve the memory of individual Holocaust victims is to receive one of Germany's highest civilian honors, he confirmed Sunday.

Gunter Demnig said he had learned that he will receive the German state's Order of Merit from President Horst Koehler in October for his Stolpersteine project, in which he lays small brass plaques in honor of people murdered by the Nazis in front of the homes where they had lived.

Demnig, 57, has installed more than 6,000 "Stolpersteine" -- German for "stumbling blocks" -- in 106 German and Austrian cities since he started the project in 1997. The shiny plaques are meant to catch the eye of passers-by, keeping the victims' memory alive.

He told AFP he plans to take the project to Paris, Copenhagen and Odessa next year.

"The number of stones does not matter very much. What counts is to bring them to as many cities as possible," he said.

The idea behind the project is to bring the scope of the Nazis' genocidal campaigns during World War II down to a human scale.

It is also intended as a counterpoint to the vast official Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which opened in May in Berlin and spans the space of three soccer pitches.

Demnig has called the site "too grandiose and bombastic" and said that he aimed to create a "decentralized" memorial that also honored other victims of the Nazis such as gays, the handicapped and gypsies.

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COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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