Holocaust Remembrance Day

Jewish leaders mark 80th anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in this year’s March of the Living

Philanthropists, politicians, organization heads to march alongside survivors to honor Jewish resistance during the Holocaust

More than 9,000 people from around the world arrived in Poland for the annual March of the Living from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Tuesday to mark Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah.

The participants include philanthropists Robert Kraft, Miriam Adelson, Ari Emanuel, David Zaslav, Iris and Haim Taib, Eitan Neishlos and Mati Kochavi, as well as Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch, Jewish Agency Board of Governors Chair Mark Wilf, Jewish Agency Chair Doron Almog and Keren Kayemet Le’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund Chair Ifat Ovadia Luski, rapper Meek Mill and CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, according to March of the Living. 

In addition, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and his predecessor, former Ambassador David Friedman, are taking part in the march as part of an inaugural Bipartisan Diplomatic Delegation, an American initiative aimed at highlighting “what unites us as Jewish people and as human beings,” the two ambassadors said in a joint statement.

This year’s march was given the theme “Honoring Jewish Heroism in the Holocaust,” to mark the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The march was led by 42 Holocaust survivors, including Halina Birenbaum, who was a child during the uprising and was hidden in a bunker until Nazis liquidated the ghetto. She was deported to Majdanek and later to Auschwitz, March of the Living said. Birenbaum will walk alongside the grandchildren of Jewish resistance fighters: Eyal Zuckerman, the granddaughter of ZOB commanders Zivia Lubetkin and Yitzhak (Antek) Zuckerman, and Nir Yaari, grandson of resistance fighter Bela Hazan Yaari.

The march began at 2 p.m. in Poland (8 a.m. ET/3 p.m. Israel time) and the entire event was livestreamed (below).

“This is a special year that marks several significant events, the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel, and the 35th anniversary of the March of the Living,” President of the International March of the Living Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, and its chair, Shmuel Rosenman, said in a joint statement ahead of the march. “This year we will shine a light on Jewish heroism during the Holocaust. For years, Jews have been presented as victims who went ‘like lambs to the slaughter.’ Young people in Israel and throughout the Jewish world are not familiar with the countless acts of courage by thousands of Jews during the Holocaust; as an international educational organization, it is our duty to share these stories and to shine a light on the acts of these brave heroes.”

At the main ceremony of this year’s March of the Living in Auschwitz, torches were lit marking the fight against antisemitism, in honor of the State of Israel and — for the first time — in memory of the persecution of Tunisian Jewry during the Holocaust, the organization said.

Mattarella and Kisch spoke at the ceremony, and the seven torches were lit by Kraft; Nides and Friedman; Wilf; Iris and Haim Taib; Adelson; Ovadia-Luski and March of the Living Vice-Chairman Baruch Adler, the organization said.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, March of the Living, which has led trips to Auschwitz since 1988, was forced to hold “virtual marches” in 2020 and 2021. Last year, the organization was able to hold an in-person march, albeit in a more limited configuration. This will be the first year since the pandemic that the March of the Living will be held in its full format.

Kraft led a delegation titled, “Speak up to Jewish hate,” which is connected to a campaign that he recently launched to combat antisemitism. “The March of the Living is a powerful statement of solidarity for all those who have been victims of intolerance and discrimination, and it reminds us that we must stand up against antisemitism and all hate to ensure that history does not repeat itself,” he said in a statement.

Haim Taib, an Israeli entrepreneur born in Jerusalem to Tunisian parents, marched in memory of the Tunisian Jews killed in the Holocaust whose persecution by the Nazis – along with other Jewish communities in North Africa – has long been overshadowed by the experiences of European Jews. 

“I am proud and emotional to be leading the March of the Living, for the first time, in memory of the wonderful Jewish community of Tunisia, which was occupied by the Nazis and experienced antisemitic persecution, forced labor and starvation,” Taib said in a statement.

“I will be marching with my grandfather Haim Taib in my heart, the man I am named after, who was sent to do hard labor and returned beaten and bruised, just skin and bones. It is important that we remember the story of the Jewish communities of North Africa during the Holocaust.”