Holocaust survivors who also lived through Oct. 7 to help lead next month’s March of the Living

This year's event will also highlight the 80th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry with a conference and a march through Budapest

Holocaust survivors who also lived through the Oct. 7 terror attacks in southern Israel or were directly affected by them will be among the 55 survivors from around the world who will lead the 36th International March of the Living in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp next month, the organization announced on Thursday.

This year’s March of the Living will have a dual focus: Commemorating the Oct. 7 massacre and its significance on Holocaust Remembrance Day; and marking the 80th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry during the Holocaust.

“This year’s March of the Living holds profound significance, as the horrors of the past intertwine with the present ongoing nightmare faced by the State of Israel,” Shmuel Rosenman and Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, the chair and president of the International March of the Living, respectively, wrote in a joint statement. “The recent incomprehensible massacre on Oct. 7 serves as a constant reminder of the persistent threat posed by antisemitic hatred. This year, more than ever, we understand why preserving the memory of the Holocaust is still essential.”

This year’s event will also feature two marches: One, led by 80 Hungarian Holocaust survivors, will begin on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 5, at Budapest’s Dohany Synagogue and end at the Keleti Train Station, where the first deportation of the city’s Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau took place. Following the ceremony, many of the participants will continue from the station on a “Train of the Living” to Oswiecim, the Polish town adjacent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, from which they will join the second march through the concentration camp.

That march on Holocaust Remembrance Day, will be led by 55 survivors, 21 of them from Hungary and seven who were personally affected by the Oct. 7 attacks.

The seven are: Bellha Haim, the grandmother of Yotam Haim, who was murdered in the attack and whose body was taken to Gaza; Danit Gabay, who was in Kibbutz Re’im during the massacre; Daniel Louz from Kibbutz Be’eri; Smil Bercu Sacagiu, whose home was bombed in Ashkelon; Judith Tzamir from Kibbutz Mefalsim; Jacqueline Gliksman from Kibbutz Ein HaShlosha, and Zili Wenkert, the grandmother of Omer Wenkert, who was abducted from the Nova music festival. 

“I was born in Poland, and I survived the Holocaust. I had promised my grandchild a better world, but I couldn’t fulfill this promise,” Haim said in a statement. “I never imagined that I would visit Auschwitz, but since Yotam marched there, I will march in his footsteps.”

In addition to the Holocaust survivors affected by the attacks, hostages who were released from Hamas captivity and the families of current captives, as well as bereaved families, injured survivors of the attacks, Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam and the mayor of the Sha’ar HaNegev region, Tamir Idan, will also take part in the march.

The delegation of Oct. 7 victims was organized and is being sponsored by Haim Taib’s Menomadin Foundation 

“The link between the Holocaust, experienced by Jews 80 years ago and the horrors of the onslaught of Oct. 7 underscores our collective obligation as a nation and society to remain resilient, to defend ourselves and to continue shaping the remarkable narrative of our people,” Taib said in a statement. “I take pride in marching alongside the courageous individuals of the Oct. 7 delegation. Together, we will rise from the ashes of this horrific attack and foster prosperity and abundance in the years ahead.”

Thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish students, North American university presidents, TikTok influencers and law enforcement representatives will take part in this year’s March of the Living, the organization said.

To further mark the 80th anniversary of the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry, the weekend before Holocaust Remembrance Day, the March of the Living, the Jewish Agency for Israel, KKL-JNF and the Hungarian Jewish Heritage Foundation Mazsök will hold a conference in Budapest focusing on the subject for young European Jewish leaders. 

“The Jewish Agency endeavors to empower young leaders to actively engage in Holocaust remembrance and tell the story of Hungarian Jewry,” Jewish Agency Chairman Doron Almog said in a statement. “Our resolve is fortified by the legacy of Hannah Szenes, a fighter and paratrooper executed by the Nazis in her hometown of Budapest. She famously declared, ‘A voice calls, and I go.’ As that same call resonates with us, we are united in our determination to heed it, drawing strength from her courage. We recognize the weight of our generation’s duty to safeguard the continuity of the Jewish people.”