August 12, 2010
A barrack that stored some 10,000 pairs of shoes belonging to former Jewish prisoners, along with other artifacts from the Holocaust, was destroyed in a fire late Monday, Aug. 9, in eastern Poland. According to online news sources, the fire at the former Majdanek Nazi death camp was discovered by a guard at around 11:40 PM. Firefighters were called and were able to extinguish the fire quickly, but about half of the shoes were destroyed. An electrical short from a cookstove is thought to be the cause.
Majdanek was the second largest Nazi concentration camp after Auschwitz. About 60,000 Jews and 20,000 people of other nationalities died there. It now houses a Holocaust museum in memory of the victims.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum expressed shock and sadness at the news of the fire on their website. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has maintained a close partnership with the Majdanek Museum and in an agreement has several thousand shoes on permanent display at its museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“These shoes are iconic symbols of the Holocaust since they are personal and each represents an innocent life. Our millions of visitors tell us overwhelmingly that the display of victims’ shoes was the most unforgettable part of their Museum experience,” said Sara J. Bloomfield, Museum director. “We will continue our important partnership with the Majdanek Museum and assist them in conservation efforts.”
Majdanek was named after the Polish village of Majdan Tatarski. It was built in October 1941 and operated until the Germans closed it on June 23, 1944. The camp was established by the SS leader Odilo Globocnik, who was also responsible for the operation of the death camps of Sobibor and Treblinka, both in the district of Lublin. Globocnik committed suicide after the fall of the Third Reich.
ushmm.org (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Haaretz.com (Israel Haaretz Daily Newspaper)