Scrapbookpages Blog

April 2, 2018

Shoes worn by Holocaust victims were saved by the Nazis and are now displayed in a museum

Filed under: Auschwitz, Germany, Holocaust — furtherglory @ 1:26 pm

My 1998 photo of Block 15 at Auschwitz

The Block 15 barrack building at Auschwitz was later used to house Museum exhibits.

When I visited Auschwitz for the first time in 1998, the visitors’ tour of the main Auschwitz camp began in Block 15, shown in the photo above, which housed an exhibit entitled “Historical Introduction”.

That building is located at the corner of the first intersection of camp streets after you pass the camp kitchen near the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate, which is behind the camera on the left. Organized groups begin their tour of the museum buildings here and then move on to Blocks 4, 5, 6, and 7 which are in the last row of barracks buildings.

Blocks 4, 5, 6, and 7 at the former Auschwitz I concentration camp have been converted from barracks into museum rooms with glass display cases. All of these exhibit buildings are located on the second cross street, to your right after you enter through the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate. At the end of this street is Block 11, the prison block which is open to visitors.

In Block 5, there are displays devoted to the “Material Evidence of Crime.” One of the saddest sights at Auschwitz is the display of shoes in a huge glass case that takes up half a barracks room in Block 5. The shoes seem to be deteriorating and are mostly the same dark gray color, except for a few women’s or children’s shoes that are made of red leather. The red shoes stand out like the red coat worn by the little girl in Schindler’s List, a black and white picture.

My photo of shoes in display case at Auschwitz Museum

When the Soviet Union liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945, there were 43,000 pairs of shoes in the camp. The photo below shows the shoes that were found in a warehouse.

Shoes and clothing of prisoners found at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Theatergebäude (theater building) which is located just outside the Auschwitz main camp, was used as a clothing warehouse and it was stuffed full when the camp was liberated. All but six of the clothing warehouse buildings at Birkenau had been set on fire when the camp was abandoned by the Nazis on January 18, 1945 and the buildings were still burning when the Soviet liberators arrived on January 27, 1945.

There is a large display case in Block 5, taking up half of a barracks room, which contains the suitcases brought by Jewish victims to the camp. The Jews were instructed to mark their suitcases for later identification; you can still see the names written on the leather cases in large letters in the photo below.

On some of the suitcases is the word Waisenkind, which means orphan; this is proof that there were children among the victims at Auschwitz.

Display case of suitcases used by the victims

The leather suitcases have not deteriorated like the shoes, which probably means that the shoes were disinfected with Zyklon-B in preparation for sending them back to Germany, but the suitcases weren’t. There are also some baskets in this display, used by the victims to carry their meager belongings with them to the camp.

Another display case in Room 5 of Block 5, pictured below, is filled with the artificial legs and crutches which were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps by incoming prisoners. My tour guide in 1998 explained that the wounded Polish war veterans from World War I accounted for most of this huge collection.

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