In New York, an exhibit dedicated to the more than 1.1 million people who died at Auschwitz opens next week. The goal is to make sure people never forget what happened during the Holocaust.
The tattoo on Shirley Gottesman’s left arm has faded but the memories have not. In 1944, Gottesman, then 17, was pulled from her home and eventually separated from her family. Only she and her brother survived. Her parents and grandmother were killed along with the more than 1 million other Jews at the Nazis’ largest concentration camp.
Gottesman found her mother’s shoe inside crematorium number four, where she was forced to work. “I made a decision. I cannot take it with me. I left it,” she said. “I didn’t say goodbye. I just said she is dead.”
CBS News met Gottesman inside the exhibit called “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. It is the life work of Robert Jan van Pelt.
“Shirley is a witness. And the burden that a witness carries on her or his shoulders is immense,” he said.
Curators have carefully handled and displayed objects never seen on American soil. There are more than 700, many overwhelming. There is a replica of a gas chamber door, the side the Nazis closed, the side their victims couldn’t open.
“The two sides of the door speak about total power and total powerlessness,” Jan van Pelt said.
There’s a sock still tucked into a shoe that belonged to a young boy who was murdered. “This is in some way, the last act of a human being so this was not abandoned. This was put somewhere, carefully,” Jan van Pelt said.
There are also more than 400 photographs, brutal evidence of 20th century deprivation and desperation.
“One of the reasons that it is good for the world to again be confronted with the story is that when this generation passes away, an exhibition like this is one of the ways to take over their burden and to carry it on,” Jan van Pelt said.
Gottesman said she believes it can happen again, “because people forget history.” She hopes the exhibit will make sure people don’t forget.