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Lead photo: Stevie Golden-Plotnick with book ‘Just a Shoe’

Just A shoe: Golden-Plotnik’s story designed to educate children about Holocaust

[The article was first written January 2009]

By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B.

Twenty one year old Stevie Golden Plotnik, the grand daughter of a Holocaust survivor, shared her story  “Just a Shoe”  designed to educate children  about the Holocaust before about 60 people  at the Jewish Book Fair here last month. 

“Just A Shoe” is available to the  public through the March of the Living website, 
(www. marchof the ) and Golden says “I am looking into grants and publishers” to try to get the picture book published.

The story is written from the perspective of  “a lonely shoe” who sits “in a pile behind the glass in this astonishing place called Auschwitz.”   The shoe which once had “bold leather and a sharp sole” belonged to a Jewish boy who was forced to leave his home  to go to a ghetto.  The shoe describes what the boy, who initially becomes part of the resistance  to the Nazis, endures.  Eventually, the shoe  leaves “my boy at the gas chambers,”  and is taken and sorted by other boys and awaits a new foot which does not come.
The story is dedicated to Golden-Plotnik’s grandmother, “Savta” Bracha Plotnik, who grew up in Poland, and survived the Bedzin ghetto and Auschwitz,  before immigrating to Israel.  “She immigrated to Israel not to start over, but to continue a plan that had been interrupted. This is how she once explained it to me,” said Golden-Plotnik, who recently  completed her  Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at the University of Winnipeg.

At the event Golden-Plotnik introduced the story by saying, “When I was small, the Holocaust was a story – a  part of my family history, the reason my Savta had numbers [51000]  on her arm. Then, throughout school, it was a lesson. Books filled my shelves—my parents and teachers can attest to this. The Holocaust was all I wanted to read about, and I was never more intrigued by any subject. Then, in grade 9, I went to Washington to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and learned to take my passion outside of the classroom and my hometown. Finally, the time came for me to participate in the March of the Living, an experience I had been anticipating for as long as I can remember. After spending a tumultuous week in Poland, I ventured to Israel where I was lucky enough to visit with my grandmother days after following her footsteps in Auschwitz. Though I’d asked her about the camp before, I now had new questions and new insights.”

Years later,   Golden-Plotnik  took a course at the University of Winnipeg called Picture Books for Children.  “The final project was to create a picture book of our own,” said  Golden-Plotnik.  She said her Professor Debra Schnitzer, encouraged her to write something she knew about, and the story almost wrote itself.

“ Based on my journals from the March of the Living, and my love of children’s literature, the story was already written. And, for that matter, the visuals were already in place—I used my own photos from the March of the Living, and materials provided to me through the program,” she said
Golden –Plotnik added that after submitting her work , Schnitzer  “encouraged me to share it with the broader community. In my heart, I knew that it must be shared with March of the Living, as many parts were in fact a product of this amazing program.”

Golden-Plotnik said  that the reason she wrote the book from the  vantage point of a shoe is because “A shoe is an object that everyone uses every day without much thought.” This makes the story more profound  since “if a shoe can speak, it must have something important to say.”

She noted that  “Shoes are necessary for daily life. They carry weight, scars, and stories just like the people who wear them. In the pile at Auschwitz, shoes are stacked to the ceiling, each with its own story.”
According at Golden-Plotnik, “ a picture book can never be read once.”    In  Just A Shoe  “the text speaks in a soft, personal voice, making the audience feel like a part of the story, rather than a witness. The photographs are intense, even jarring, and are more like pieces of evidence than art. “


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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