Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is fortunate to exhibit primary artifacts from Auschwitz-Birkenau. The personal items displayed before you are on loan from the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is only the second museum in the United States to display such artifacts.

The Jews were deported to Auschwitz from almost all German-occupied and allied countries. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest slave labor and extermination center in Nazi-occupied Poland. It was designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, as the center of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe”. From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. Although suspicious of what awaited them at Auschwitz, the Jews had to follow the Germans’ deceptive orders and were forced to pack essential personal belongings. The artifacts displayed before you are everyday items from the Kanada Section of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Kanada section was a large warehouse where the belongings of those arriving to the camp were confiscated and sorted for shipment to Germany where the items would be reused by ordinary Germans. This section was called ‘Kanada” because it—like the country—was a neutral territory in the Auschwitz geography. The prisoners who worked in the Kanada section were responsible for sorting hundreds of thousands of personal items.

Although old, fragile, and time-worn, these items silently tell intimate and tragic stories. The loaned items, including the men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes, suggest the vulnerability of the lives caught up in the Nazi’s final solution. The utensils and simple kitchen implements convey a feeble Jewish hope of a normal life and—at the same time—the extent of the Nazi deception. The blue child’s cup, with its happy scene on its side, reminds us how the Nazis ruined all aspects of life, especially childhood.

To learn more about Auschwitz-Birkenau, listen to prompt 460 and explore the interactive camp screen located in room 4.