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Heartbreaking discoveries in shoes at Auschwitz: God knows your name

Heartbreaking discoveries in shoes at Auschwitz: God knows our name
Shoes in display case in Block 5 at Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Auschwitz, Poland on September 3, 2017.

The Memorial and Museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland contains artifacts from one of the Nazi concentration camps used during World War II, where millions of Jews were exterminated. While preserving shoes that belonged to Jews who died at the camp, experts at the museum discovered a handwritten inscription in a child’s shoe with the child’s first and last name, the means of the transport, and the child’s registration number.

The child was a six-year-old Czech boy, who arrived at Auschwitz in 1944. It is believed the boy and his mother were deported to Auschwitz together and that the mother ensured the boy’s shoe was inscribed. They are presumed to both have died in the gas chamber.

God knows your name

Heartbreaking finds of identification in shoes, including newspapers with dates and names, show the prisoners’ desire to not be forgotten.

All of us have an innate desire to be known, to be loved, to be remembered. Our names, mostly given at birth, identify us. The One who knows every star by name (Isaiah 40:26, Psalm 147:4) knows each of us and desires us to know him.

God said to Moses: “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17). And to Jacob: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43).

To Jeremiah, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

He has engraved each of us on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16), knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30), and collects our tears (Psalm 56:8). His thoughts number more than the sand, morning and night (Psalm 139:17‒18).

The next time we question God’s desire to know us, or love us, we can remember: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

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