Jewish heroism

March of the Living to bring thousands to Auschwitz to mark Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Tunisian Jewry’s persecution

Resuming full operations for the first time since the pandemic, group brings delegations from around the world to Poland for Holocaust Remembrance Day

March of the Living will resume operations in its “full format” for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with thousands of people from around the world due to participate in delegations to Poland later this month, the organization said Sunday.

The march, whose theme is “Honoring Jewish Heroism in the Holocaust,” will be led by 42 Holocaust survivors, and the participants will include U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, 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, as well as a number of notable philanthropists, including Robert Kraft, Miriam Adelson, Haim Taib, Eitan Neishlos and Mati Kochavi. The latter two recently made major contributions to March of the Living’s “From Soul to Sole” campaign to preserve the shoes of 80,000 children killed in the Holocaust.

“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. “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.”

Yom Hashoah, Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day, will be marked on April 18. At the main ceremony of this year’s March of the Living in Auschwitz, torches will be lit marking the fight against anti-Semitism, in memory of Tunisian Jewry, and in honor of the State of Israel, the organization said.

With the outbreak of the 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.

Nides and Friedman will lead 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.

“The March is an indelible reminder that humanity defeated antisemitism, bigotry and intolerance before, and that, united, we can defeat all of those hatreds again, every time they rear their ugly heads. Love is stronger than hate,” they said.

Kraft will lead 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.

Taib, an Israeli entrepreneur born in Jerusalem to Tunisian parents, will be marching 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.

“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.”