Later today, thirty-seven miles west of Krakow, Poland, ten thousand high school students, representing forty countries, will join adults of all ages and participate in the March of the Living. There, the “marchers” will retrace the steps of the “March of Death,” the actual route which countless numbers of people were forced to take on their way to the gas chambers at Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built by the Nazis during World War II. As is tradition, the March begins at the gate of the Auschwitz I site, with its inscription Arbeit macht frei (“work will set you free”), and concludes at the site of the Auschwitz II – Birkenau camp.
The March will go on as planned, despite Saturday’s air tragedy that took the lives of the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria Kaczynski, and dozens of the country’s top political and military leaders. Poland has declared a week of mourning and March participants will express their solidarity with the Polish people by observing a moment of silence.
This year, The March marks 65 years since the liberation of the death camps and the end of World War II and will pay special tribute to the memory of the million and a half children who were killed during the war. Additionally, this year’s program will call attention to survivors from different professional and social fields in order to emphasize how the Jewish community has succeeded in rebuilding a new world out of the ashes of the Holocaust.
A delegation from Israel, led by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, includes both Holocaust survivors and a cross-section of young Israelis, including internationally ranked tennis player Shahar Peer and film and television actor, Ohad Knoller. Black ribbons have been attached to the delegations’ flags as a visible sign of recognizing, and remembering, Saturday’s tragedy.
about: The mission of the March of the Living is to challenge a new generation of Jews with two of the most significant events of Jewish history – the Shoah and the birth of the State of Israel. It is achieved by bringing Jewish teenagers to many of the key places where these events took place, in order to understand the world that was destroyed and how Israel was established. This is intensified by sharing these experiences with Holocaust survivors.
The program strives to create memories, leading to a revitalized commitment to Judaism, Israel and the Jewish People; allowing March’ers to educate their peers about the Holocaust and to fight those who would deny its history, while forging a dynamic link with Israel.