July 18, 2024
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From SOUL to SOLE: Children’s Shoe Preservation Campaign to Begin at Auschwitz

International March of the Living partners with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, the Auschwitz Memorial for a global campaign to preserve the shoes of children murdered in Auschwitz.

(Courtesy of IMOTL) International March of the Living (IMOTL) has announced a partnership with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and the Auschwitz Memorial to launch a global campaign to preserve some 8,000 shoes belonging to children, most of them Jewish, who were murdered in Auschwitz. The Foundation announced that, without immediate conservation, these shoes are in danger of disappearing as historic documentation of life and death due to their rapid disintegration with the passage of time. With an initial donation from the Neishlos Foundation, work will be done to preserve the shoes, while a global campaign is launched to support the ongoing project.

The conservation project will continue for two years. International March of the Living is pleased to announce and initiate a global fundraising campaign for this project, entitled “From SOUL to SOLE.”

Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors Arie Pinsker and Bogdan Barnikowski—both of whom were children when they arrived at the camp—participated in the kickoff ceremony that took place in the Conservation Laboratories at the Auschwitz Memorial. With them at the ceremony were the CEO of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, Wojciech Soczewica; the director of the Auschwitz Memorial, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński; President of the International March of the Living, Phyllis Greenberg Heideman; and Founder and President of the Neishlos Foundation, Eitan Nieshlos.

As part of the ceremony, Pinsker told how he lost his entire family in the gas chambers of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, except for his older brother who saved his life. Pinsker was part of an experiment conducted by the Germans on Jewish children in the camp. Of the 1,000 children who were in his barracks enduring the experiments, only four survived the war. He burst into tears at the sight of the tiny shoes and said, “It’s so hard for me to look at these shoes. I see them and think how maybe my twin sister’s shoes are here, too.”

Approximately 1.1 million people from across German-occupied Europe were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Among 1.3 million people deported to Auschwitz there were some 232,000 children up to the age of 18. The largest numbers of children arrived at the camp in the second half of 1942. The majority of them were Jewish children who were immediately murdered in gas chambers upon their arrival.

When Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, there were only about 500 children under 15 years of age left in the camp, all suffering from diseases and malnutrition.

International March of the Living Chairman Dr. Shmuel Rosenman and President Phyllis Greenberg Heideman shared, “When we received the request from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to preserve the shoes of children murdered in the camp, it was clear that this is a moral obligation we would take upon ourselves.”

Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, director of Auschwitz Memorial, president of Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, said: “The murder of over 200,000 children at Auschwitz is impossible to comprehend. This cruelty and injustice cannot be explained by any politics, any ideology, any worldview. The contrast between the cruelty and callousness of the adult world is perhaps most vividly illustrated in Auschwitz precisely in the juxtaposition with the trusting, curious, innocent and defenseless children who were thrown into a world they could not understand. And this world is preserved in every single shoe. Only these shoes remained after so many children. That is why we must do everything to preserve them for as long as possible.”

Wojciech Soczewica, director general of Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, noted, “I would like to thank the Foundation donors and in particular the International March of the Living for their partnership; they have been marching for over 30 years to remember the victims that were murdered in the concentration camps.”

IMOTL invites you to take an active part in preserving memory and defending history. For more information go to:
https://www.motl.org/soultosole/ or write to IMOTL at [email protected]

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