Silent witnesses: Holocaust survivor asks world to save children's shoes at Auschwitz

The 'Soul to Sole' campaign works to preserve and restore 8,000 shoes that still remain in the museum in Auschwitz

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Supplied photos
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Published: Wed 2 Nov 2022, 1:42 PM

Last updated: Wed 2 Nov 2022, 5:12 PM

There are 8,000 children's shoes that still remain in Auschwitz. Over 1.5 million children were murdered during the Holocaust, 232,000 of them in Auschwitz-Birkenau. When trains brought people to the gas chambers, their shoes and other belongings were taken from them to send to Germany for soldiers and people to use.

Towards the end of the war, the Nazis accelerated the pace of the annihilation in the camps, but were no longer able to send the victims' belongings back to Germany, leaving behind 8,000 shoes.


"I will never forget the moment I found shoes in Auschwitz. Toward the end of the war, I found mismatched shoes in the camp. I was so proud of myself to find two felt boots. They were not a pair, and one was much too large, but as I had nothing, for a moment I considered myself rich," says Holocaust survivor Paula Lebovic.

"We must preserve the children's shoes".


Before the war, Lebovic's family worked in a shoe store till 1940, when soldiers took her family to Auschwitz. She was 10 years old.

Paula survived Auschwitz but lost her father and her sisters Chaya and Chana.

The shoes, these silent witnesses to slaughter, have been stored and presented in the museum in Auschwitz for almost 80 years, but are now deteriorating with the passage of time. The loss of the shoes would mark not only the loss of memories, but also the loss of tangible evidence of the Nazis’ crimes.

The International March of the Living, in partnership with the Auschwitz Museum & Foundation, with the support of the Neishlos Foundation has launched an international educational and fundraising campaign to raise the initial $500,000 needed to enable the immediate start of the restoration project.

The campaign has succeeded in raising $175,000. Some of this was through an online campaign which raised $40,000, including from individuals who donated their birthday gifts, adults & school children, descendants of Holocaust survivors and many others.

The Neishlos Foundation, led by philanthropist and businessman Eitan Neishlos donated $100,000 to begin the project, and $35,000 was donated by Discount Bank.

Eitan Neishlos said, “By preserving these iconic shoes, we are preserving the memory of Jewish children who were the victims of perhaps the Nazis' most harrowing cruelty. It is our responsibility as the next generation to keep their memories alive and give them a voice from the darkness. Now is the time for our generation to do whatever we can to preserve the memory of the victims and honour the precious living survivors".

International March of the Living Chairman Dr. Shmuel Rosenman and President Phyllis Greenberg Heideman said, “For 35 years we have marched in the footsteps of the Jews who arrived to the death camps. Most of them were murdered upon arrival. As an educational organization it is our duty to preserve the memory of all the people who perished in the Shoah, and to protect the tangible evidence to the brutality of the Nazi regime. We are thankful for the thousands of people who already made a donation, and we invite individuals, companies and philanthropist to join this sacred mission of preserving the children's shows".

You can click here to make a contribution: https://www.motl.org/soultosole/

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