Etgar Keret’s “Shoes”

Resource Kit by
Zachary Albert

Module Content

Introduction

Introduction

Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s short story “Shoes,” first published in 2004, follows a young Jewish Israeli boy as he develops his understanding of the legacy of the Holocaust. On a school field trip to an austere Holocaust museum, the narrator and his fellow students receive an education from a survivor who lectures them on the dangers of forgiveness, memory, and Germany. Later, the narrator is gifted a pair of Adidas sneakers by his parents and contemplates his relationship to a grandfather who died during the Holocaust. In this story, the past influences the present just as the present influences how we interact with our past. The story links an individual second-generation survivor experience with the trauma of communal and mediated memories as the narrator wrestles with the Germany that killed his grandfather and the Germany of today. In the end, the narrator transcends the past (wears his German shoes) to live in an international future (plays street soccer with the neighborhood kids as a member of the “Holland” national team).

This resource kit includes materials that will help teachers discuss the story, highlighting the power of Holocaust museum narratives and objects as keepers of personal and communal memory.  These materials will also help teachers unpack the tension in Israeli society between survivor and sabra (native-born Israeli), and help them think about how irreverence in art can illuminate deep meaning.

Cover image: The baby shoe of a child named Hinda Cohen, with the date of her deportation to the death camps carved into the sole by her father. From the collection of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.