From July 12-31, 2017, I helped lead a troop of 34 boy scouts to the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree, featuring ten days of camping and high adventure activities at the BSA Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. As part of the jamboree experience, we took the boys to New York City, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. for eight days before the camp. On the itinerary was a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. I had read so many books about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and seen so many films, that I dreaded going, or rather, dreaded the grief and pain I knew I would feel upon experiencing the museum. Still, the boys needed to know and appreciate this awful period of history. Our youth are those who will see that such things never happen again. I held myself together as I studied the various exhibits. But then I came to the room of shoes. Real. Tangible. Worn by the departed dead murdered in the death camps, in the gas chambers. So many. Outside the museum, my son and nephew put their arms around me as I collapsed into convulsing sobs. We must never forget. This must never happen again. We must never forget.
This room is
worn brown leather
crumpled and twisted and squashed:
shoes of the stripped and the shamed
they lie upon
the pile deep,
crooked and disjointed and mangled:
shoes of children and working men and working women
shoes of rabbis and butchers and violin players
toes point all directions,
their mates lost:
shoes of the gassed and the dead
shoes of the forgotten
shoes of the remembered
Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.