An update from Maria, a graduate student in liberal studies:
When I think about the Holocaust I see the images of emaciated, walking corpses. These are most often adults because they were the ones most fit to work in the camps. However, I feel that very few of us remember the children who were lost during this time. While they were very young, many demonstrated extreme courage in different ways. Some risked their lives to obtain food for their families by crawling through small holes in the ghettos. They were sure to be shot if a Nazi soldier spotted them. Others were forced to work by the Nazis or died along with their families. Could I have mustered up that much courage at such a young age? I’m not sure if I could have. Then I think that no child should ever have to go through this nightmare. These children were deprived of their childhood and their innocence. Who could they have become and what good could they have brought to the world if their lives hadn’t been cut short?
In Majdanek, I saw so many shoes. A room filled with thousands of shoes that once belonged to people just like me. As the sun shone through a window in the barrack, a child’s brown boot caught my eye. It stood out from the other shoes that had lost their luster after so many years. Unlike the other sites, these shoes were not encased in glass, and we could touch them. Although there are almost 70 years between the last time those shoes were worn and today, touching that small boot made it all real for me. I could see the child who owned this pair of boots, unaware of how short his life would be and wanting only to play and be a child. He never imagined how quickly his life could have changed from good to miserable.
The Children’s Memorial in Łódź was established to commemorate the children who died in the Holocaust. I walked up to the memorial and tried to take in everything I was learning about these poor victims of hate. I noticed a little boy and girl playing around the memorial, and this hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t because they were playing but because children just like them had been killed by the thousands during the Holocaust. I snapped a photograph, and the juxtaposition of the bony statue and the live boy was so powerful because this boy has never known the pain those children endured, and I hope he never will.