Out of 185 orphans who were deported from the Lodz ghetto orphanage to Auschwitz just a handful survived. Arek Hersh was one of them.

In the memory of Arek’s friends, The International March of the Living is asking the world to join the campaign to preserve and save 8,000 children’s shoes that still remain in the Auschwitz museum today.

Arek was born in 1928 in Sieradz, Poland. He was one of a family of five children, and has happy memories of his childhood before the Nazi invasion. When the war broke out, Arek’s family fled their home and went to stay with family in Łódz. Shortly after, he was taken to a camp called Otoschno. After 18 months, only 11 of the original 2500 men were still alive.

In 1942 the Lodz ghetto was liquidated. Arek’s family was taken to the death camp at Chelmnø where they were murdered. At the age of 15 Arek was deported, along with 185 orphans, to Auschwitz.

Arek survived. Most of the orphans that arrived with him to Auschwitz did not: “There was smoke, and a smell and I knew most of my friends were gone”.

In their memory of Arek’s friends the International March of the Living is asking that the world to join in the effort to preserve and save the shoes of the children who were murdered at Auschwitz.

“Upon arrival at Auschwitz I survived the selection, avoiding immediate death in the gas chamber. I was then shaved all over and made to shower before being given a striped uniform and tattooed with the number B7608. I lost my name and identity. Later I saw the experiments with gassing Jews, as the prisoners were rounded up and shuffled into a van which had the exhaust pipe pumping fumes into it”. He remembers having to deal with the death that surrounded him: “You could see the bodies on each train. We just threw them off and buried them. I remember feeling the bones as we spread the ashes on the ground”.

By January 1945 it was clear that Germany was losing the war. As the Russian army advanced, the Germans decided to clear Auschwitz in an attempt to hide the evidence of their crimes. The remaining prisoners were taken on a forced march which lasted three days, with no food and only their striped uniforms as protection against the deep snow and icy temperatures.

Arek joined the UK March of the Living’s delegations to Poland over the past decade, telling his story to thousands of participants.

CLICK HERE and join Arek in the global campaign to preserve and save Auschwitz children’s shoes. Together we will preserve the memory and to defend history.