“The Nazis didn’t just kill the Jews; they made use of every inch of them. Women’s hair was shaved off and weaved into blankets for Nazi soldiers. Fat from Jews’ bodies was used to make soap. Gold teeth were pulled out to make gold bars for the Reichsbank. 384,000 pairs of men’s shoes were sent to Germany from Auschwitz. 646,000 men’s suits. 184,000 pairs of eyeglasses. The most frightening thing is not the gas chambers or the crematoria. It’s the rooms piled to the ceiling with children’s shoes. That gives you have an idea what the Holocaust was. Shoes. Once worn by real people.” - via jewishhistory.org
In the Holocaust Museum in DC, they have a room just for the shoes and hair of the victims. It’s really startling to see it so up close since it makes you realize the sheer scale of this. The pile of hair in the museum weighs several tons, and bear in mind that this several ton pile of hair is only but a small fraction of all of the horrible things found in the camps.
Somewhere in those shoes were the shoes of my great aunts and their children.
Same with eyeglasses.
It’s something I can never, ever forget.
The above are photos I took at Auschwitz. The shoes and suitcases were each encased in a hallway - kept behind glass on both sides. And again comprise only a fraction of what the Nazis took.
Now the significance of these collections can not be understated or undermined, the horrors of the Holocaust, the Shoah, are embodied in these piles of stolen clothing and cases.
We look at them and recoil, promising that we’ll never forget and yet the systematic slaughter of human beings continues around the world.
In different places, for different reasons. Who didn’t learn the lesson? Who still needs to be reached? Who needs to be protected?
Do not forget. Remember and react. Radical evil is not a memory of the past, it is a present and continuous force.