If facing a jury of my journalism peers, I probably would highlight the other items in my July 28 column, “On the sidewalks where they live,” that I checked and double checked. But it would make little difference. I erred in a most embarrassing fashion in describing one of the brass plates embedded in the sidewalks of Berlin and other European cities in tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. The plate was in a photograph that accompanied the column.
Part of my point involved the imagination at work when you come across one of the Stolpersteine, or “stumbling blocks,” conceived and made by the artist Gunter Demnig. You can’t help but wonder about the details of the victims’ lives, the plates placed outside their last known residence. My imagination went too far, or that would be the polite version.
I saw “SINGER” and without enough hard thinking mused that this may be a performer of some note. It should have grabbed me that “singer” doesn’t translate into “singer” in German. But it didn’t. I wish I had a good excuse, perhaps the National Security Agency somehow intruding. But I don’t.
A couple of readers quickly, and gently, let me know me about the mistake. It turns out “SINGER” was the maiden name, its presence flowing so logically from the purpose of brass markers.
One of the purposes of these pages, editorial and commentary, is dialogue, ideas and views exchanged, contributions from the editorial board, columnists, readers and others. Part of the action involves readers keeping those of us at the paper on our toes, taking the time to let us know when we have erred, pushing us in that way to do better.
One of those alerting me was Dr. Geoffrey Koby, associate professor of German translation at Kent State University. He suggested a small bright side, delivering “a bit of inadvertent amusement to German speakers.” More important, he offered to help the next time a German or Dutch text presents a puzzle. I expect to take him up on it.
— MICHAEL DOUGLAS
Editorial page editor