Tonight begins Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance day. When I was a senior in high school I visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC for the first time on a school trip. I'll never forget the room full of shoes found stockpiled at the Majdanek Concentration Camp. An estimated 78,000 individuals were killed at that camp alone. Such numbers are hard to comprehend and too big to grasp. It was seeing the shoes - each unique to its wearer, worn in by the living and moving of that pair of feet - that really communicated the horror and loss. The work of memorials is to help us remember: these are always more than just numbers, they are human beings.
Printed on the wall behind the display:
We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses. We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam, And because we are only made of fabric and leather And not of blood and flesh, Each one of us avoided the hellfire