Preserving the traces of the children at Auschwitz
By Miguel Á. Gayo Macías
Oświęcim, Poland, Sep 22 (EFE).- A project to preserve the shoes of some 8,000 children killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust has been launched in the Polish city of Oświęcim.
The initiative aims to preserve the shoes, all that is left of the victims, for as long as possible to keep their memory alive.
Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, president of March of the Living, one of the organizations running the project, tells Efe the initiative is a “moral obligation.”
“It provides a material testimony to the brutality of the Nazi regime,” she says.
Holocaust survivor Arie Pinsker was 14 years old when he arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp. He remembers wearing summer shoes and feeling terrified of the horror that awaited him.
Pinsker was one of the three survivors out of some 1,000 children brought to the camp with him.
“Maybe my sister’s shoes are here,” he says, looking at the pile of shoes displayed at the Auschwitz museum.
Another survivor of the Holocaust, Bogdan Barnikowski, remembers arriving at Auschwitz, “the gateway to hell,” and being registered as a number. She was later transferred to a labor camp in Berlin with her mother.
“It is sad to look at these shoes, but at the same time I am happy to know that they (the shoes) will survive as a testimony to the children who died here,” she says.
Eitan Neishlos’s grandmother was killed in the Holocaust. The only thing he has left of her is a shoebox with a few objects that belonged to her.
“In these shoes they took their last steps before being torn from their mothers’ arms,” Neishlos says at the presentation of the project.
“While their shoes were taken from them, they were stripped of their names, their dreams and their future,” he adds.
Approximately 1.1 million people were murdered in Auschwitz, out of which about 232,000 were children.
When the camp was liberated in January 1945, only 500 children under the age of 15 had survived.
“The mass murder of children is impossible to understand, such cruelty and injustice cannot be explained by politics, ideology or opinion,” director of the Auschwitz Museum, Piotr Cywińsk, says.
Each shoe displayed at the museum is accompanied by a detailed description, tracing back as close as possible to the shoe’s owner.
“In this case, it is not a question of restoration, but of conservation. Because, just as history cannot be changed, the best thing we can do is to show it as it was,” Cywińsk says. EFE