For most of my life that I can remember, I have had a certain draw to the Holocaust.
I once read a interesting book called "The Americanization of the Holocaust." It talked about how even though the Holocaust did not happen in America, and most Americans at the time did not know someone who died in it, we still as a nation still have some strange feelings of ownership or interest in it. The book wasn't really able to pinpoint the exact socialogical proof or reasons why, only theories. The point I am making here is that if someone from America wrote a book about the very thing that has been on my mind for the last 25-30 years...me, some white girl from Alaska.... there must be many others who feel the same way too.
It was only after I was married and an adult that I did my genealogy of my step-father's line. Only then did I learn that my maiden adopted name was Yiddish Hebrew from the Czech region. Only then did I learn that my step-grandfather, Richard, had a grandmother named Anna living in the region at the time that Hitler marched through in 1939. His father, Joseph, would send money to Anna. It was in 1939 that the letters from her stopped coming and they never heard from her again.
It was only after I was married and went to Washington DC to the Holocaust Museuem (worth the trip alone to see in DC) (and evidence that the book was right...why do we have a museum in OUR nation's captital about an event that happened on another continent? It would seem to me that it would be like building a museum in DC off the Mall about the the slaughtering of Sudanese in Sudan...)
When I went to the museum I was so moved that it took me hours to go through. Without going into much detail of the actual exhibit, there is two things I took away from there....burned indefinately in my soul.
The first was when I walked through a train box car (a real box car of Jews for transport to concentration camps), I felt like I felt their spirits in there. The train car was so small. So many people were shoved in there. On their way to their deaths. When I exited through the other side, there were no soldiers with guns waiting for me. No one making me strip or walk to a gas chamber. Waiting for me on the other side was a giant mural photograph of people who were doing just that. I remember being so overcome with emotion that I stood facing the mural, leaned my head forward on the photograph and cried.
I will never forget it.
The second thing that I took away that day from the museum was a very simple image of part of an exhibit. It was this:
It was a big pile of shoes that had belonged to the people who had been gassed. So many shoes. Mr. Fun said that when he went to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem (the Yad Yashim), he also remembers a big pile of shoes.
Those shoes survived because they were NOT made of blood and flesh. Weird eh? That canvas and leather, which is man made, endured.
In some strange sort of way, shoes have become an icon of the Holocaust.
Which leads me to my first 2012 Bob the Builder Award. A guy nicknamed "Woody."
Alan, "Woody", Morawiec is the son of Chaim Morawiec, a survivor of the Holocaust.
Chaim never could find his voice, figuratively, to share his story, so his son, Woody the middle school technology teacher, did.
After learning about Holocaust Awareness Week in 2000, Woody asked his dad for a pair of his shoes that he could share with his middle school students to connect them to Chaim.
Chaim sent them and the rest they say is "history." To help drive home the point, Woody asked the kids to bring a pair of shoes to donate to needy people in Colorado, their home state. That year alone, Woody collected 300 pairs.
Woody then went on to begin the Holocaust Shoe Project. To date, they have collected over 33,000 pairs of shoes for the needy around the world. Chaim died in 2009, but his story lives on, representing the millions of stories that will never be told.
If you are interested in feeling inspired and encouraged to do a little more good in this new year...this is a great place to start: