Small stones on graves

Question:

There are various small stone ledges on the walls of the Dachau KZ Jewish Memorial Temple. Persons have placed small stones on the ledges (similar to the small stones that the "Schindler's List" survivors placed on Oscar's grave at the end of the film). What is the significance/symbolism of this practice?

Daniel Mittleman Responds:

It is a custom in all of Jewish tradition, not just at the Extermination camps. It is a sign of respect for the dead. It stems from the symbolism of making sure the burial site is noted by a stone marker. While adding a small stone doesn't really add a permanent marking to the site, it has evolved that this is the way an individual indicates participation in the process of marking a grave.

You can read much more about this topic at:
http://www.jewish-funerals.org/stones.htm
http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Judaism/graves.html

Daniel Mittleman
Associate Professor

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