I peered into the heavy silence of the dimly lit barrack. There were four columns (two taller than me and two reaching my waist) of something gray-colored encased in wire and metal. The columns ran all the way to the back of the long barrack.
I stepped closer, my fingers gripping the wire. Shoes. Hundreds and thousands of shoes. I slowly walked the length of the barrack. There were shoes for men, shoes for women, and shoes for children. My own shoes made a hollow noise against the floor of the otherwise silent barrack. As I walked past the shoes I remembered a poem by Moses Schulstein that my high school history teacher had shared with us.
“We are the shoes, we are the last witness.
We are the shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers,
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam.
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of flesh and blood,
Each one of us avoided the hellfire.”
The brighter light that greeted me as I stepped out of the barrack seemed to mock the darkness I had left behind me. I had no desire to go back into the barrack, but no desire to continue walking in the slightly overcast daylight. I crossed the road and sat beside my friend Kathleen. We cried silently. After a few minutes I tried to vocalize my thoughts. “They kept the shoes. But they didn’t bother to keep the people who wore them,” I said bitterly as I stared across at the dark doorway of the barrack. After watching several people trudge in and out of the silent barrack, Kathleen and I continued walking the road.
The road–called the Road of Homage–led to the Mausoleum. The domed Mausoleum covers what remains of the ashes of those that lived and died in the Majdanek concentration camp during the Holocaust.