March of the Living Through Concentration Camps Is Solemn Triumph of Holocaust Survival

“I have remembered Thy name, O Hashem, in the night, and have observed Thy law.” Psalms 119:55 (The Israel Bible™)

More than 10,000 people participated in the 29th annual March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau in Poland on Monday commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.

The March is held on Holocaust Memorial Day to contrast the forced marches the inmates made to their deaths. It also contrasts with Israel Independence Day celebrated in one week.

March of the Living Chairman Dr. Shmuel Rosenman addressed the crowd before they began, noting that since the March’s inception in 1988, 250,000 people have taken part in the event.

“Last year, the world lost Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate, and conscience of the world,” he said,  Wiesel, a writer, activist, and philanthropist, wrote about his experiences during the Holocaust in his internationally acclaimed work, Night. Prior to his death in 2016, for many, Wiesel came to represent a generation of survivors.

“Elie Wiesel, who was with us in our very first March in 1988, said, ‘If you listen to a witness you become a witness’,” stated Rosenman. “His words have become a central goal of the March – to create the next generation of witnesses from among our young people. So the stories and lessons of the Holocaust are never, ever forgotten.”

Rosenman announced that since the March’s inception in 1988, 250,000 people have taken part. The march is intended to contrast the forced marches the inmates made to their deaths. It also contrasts with Israel Independence Day celebrated in one week.

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The vast majority of participants in the March of the Living are Jewish high school students from different countries including Israel, but many non-Jewish groups participate as well.

March of the Living Poland,April 24, 2017(photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90 )

Israeli Supreme Court President Miriam Naor and Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett were in attendance. Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, a survivor of the Buchenwald extermination camp, also attended, as he does every year.

IDF General Gadi Eisenkot led the “Witnesses in Uniform” delegation, which included around 200 IDF soldiers, officers and bereaved families.

Israeli minister of Education Naftali Bennett, Rabbi Meir Lau and IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot participating in the March of the Living April 24, 2017 (Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett spoke at the torch-lighting ceremony.

“I am here as a representative of my family. My grandmother Michela and grandfather Yisrael-Irvin Lefko lost their families in the gas chambers. My wife Gilat’s grandfather Elie – as a teenager with a non-Jewish appearance – protected and fed his mother and brother in the forest, until they were murdered by local Poles only weeks before liberation,” Bennett said. “And Gilat’s grandmother, Clara, hid as a Christian girl and was the sole survivor of her family.Our children our named after them.”

“The crimes committed by the Nazis and their helpers against the Jews were the greatest tragedy in human history. It is our mission to educate those who will never meet a survivor. It is our mission to tell the stories the tracks and chimneys cannot tell.”

“This is not only an Israeli mission. This is not only a Jewish mission. This is a universal mission.”

“In the words of Eli Wiesel, who made himself a voice for those who could not speak, ‘To forget is to kill twice.’

And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.’ (Samuel 1, 15:29)

“I promise, we will never forget,” Bennet continued. “The nation of Israel lives on.”

Holocaust survivor with his granddaughter and a Torah saved from the Holocaust (Photo Flash90)