Stumbling Stones, Commemoration, and Family History

Date & Time
Sunday, Jul. 9, 2023
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Location Virtual Program
Ticketing $5/general public, Free/JGS Pittsburgh members

New commemorating initiatives in Europe lead to renewed interest in Jewish family histories.

Searching for the history of his house, Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld stumbled upon the dramatic history of a Jewish family and a son who was murdered in Auschwitz. With the help of surviving relatives and by doing archival research, Bijsterveld was able to reconstruct the family’s past, while reconnecting scattered family members at the same time. As a result, they were able to place a stumbling stone, create a documentary film, and write a book.

In this talk, Bijsterveld will sketch the wider context of the changes in the Dutch memory culture of World War II and the Holocaust. This can be characterized as a transformation of remembrance to a more individual approach, doing justice to the agency of the people involved as well as to the nuance and paradoxes that come with every family history. The stumbling stones are a case in point, as these exemplify this transformation. Recently, the focus has shifted from a single narrative on the Holocaust in the Netherlands to multiple narratives. Research on life and family histories is essential to further this approach. This asks of the (family) historian to strike a balance between personal involvement and professional attitude.

This program is possible through the generous support of the William M. Lowenstein Genealogical Research Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation.


“Stumbling Stones, Commemoration, and Family History” is a collaboration between the Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh and the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center. Please register online. The program is free for JGS-Pittsburgh members and $5 for the general public. To become a member of the JGS-Pittsburgh and receive a free membership code for this program, please visit its website.

This program will be recorded and made available to current JGS-Pittsburgh members.

About the Speaker

Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld (1962) was trained as a medieval historian and is professor at Tilburg University, the Netherlands. He studied at the Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen (1980-1986) and graduated at the University of Amsterdam (1987). In 1993, he received his PhD (cum laude) at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. For research and teaching, he was affiliated with the Université de Liège (1988-1989), Princeton University (1994-1995), the Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte in Göttingen (1997), the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (1998-1999 and 2006), Venice International University (2011), and the Humboldt Universität Berlin (2018).

Since 1999, he has held the funded chair for the Regional History and Ethnology of Brabant at Tilburg University. As member of the Department of Sociology and professor in the University College Tilburg, he teaches on nationalism and regionalism in Europe, regional history, medieval history, the philosophy of history and memory, and the representation of traumatic histories (Public and Applied History). Under his supervision, 23 PhD students have completed their PhD so far. At the moment, he supervises three PhDs working on Holocaust and World War II history. Since 2011, he has been involved in the placing of stumbling stones (Stolpersteine) in his hometown Tilburg.

He published widely on the medieval history of the Low Countries and on the interplay between history, cultural heritage, and (regional) identity. Since 2011, he focuses on the history and the memory culture of the Holocaust. In 2012, he was involved in the making of the documentary film Here was Bertram: In search for a lost life. In 2016, he published House of Memories: Uncovering the Past of a Dutch Jewish Family (Hilversum: Verloren), which appeared in Dutch as Ons huis. Op zoek naar een Joodse familie in Tilburg in 2020.