March of the Living is an extraordinary, unforgettable experience. On 1-6th May 2016, thousands of Jewish people, from countries all around the world, will share in a once in a lifetime experience when they march three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built by the Nazis during World War II. The March commemorates Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. You can be there – along with over 8,000 participants who will be part of this historic event.
As one of the Marchers, you will retrace the steps of the March of Death, the actual route which countless numbers of our people were forced to take on their way to the gas chambers at Birkenau. You will experience Jewish history where it was made. This time, however, there will be a difference. It will be a March of the Living with thousands of Jewish youth, like yourself, marching shoulder to shoulder. You will participate in a memorial service at one of the gas chambers/crematoria, in Birkenau, which will conclude with the singing of Hatikvah, reaffirming Am Yisrael Chai – The Jewish People Live.
In 2011, we visited the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek. We also visited historic Jewish sites in Warsaw, (the Ghetto Memorial, Mila 18, the Jewish Cemetery, the restored Nozyk Synagogue) Cracow (the Jewish Quarter, the Ramah Synagogue) and Lublin (the famous Yeshiva). The highlight was the March of the Living. Prior to the March, we travelled as part of a small group, often forming strong and important relationships as we supported each other on this emotional journey.
By taking part in these special events, the group shared unforgettable moments in Jewish history and bear witness to the undying spirit of the Jewish people. Like those who participated in the last twenty Marches, we all returned home with a new sense of our people and our history. And from the feedback we received, it’s clear that it will be an experience that will remain with everyone for a lifetime.
The March of the Living will bring together Jewish people from over 40 countries and regions around the world including Israel, USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Panama, South Africa, France, Sweden, Hungary and Poland. The fact that the 10,000 Marchers come from all points of the world creates an amazing sense of Jewish togetherness.
For over one thousand years there has been a Jewish presence in Poland. Throughout that period, there followed alternating periods of peace and persecution. During the latter, there were mass Jewish emigrations to the West – nevertheless by the 20th century, Jews formed 10% of the population of Poland.
On September 1st 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and over the next five years Poland would become a graveyard for the Jews of Europe. In 1939 there were 3.3 million Jews living within the Polish borders, by 1945 only 300000 were left. The great synagogues burnt, thousand of Jewish buildings and prayer houses razed to the ground, ancient cemeteries uprooted, tens of thousands of books and ritual objects destroyed… an entire civilisation decimated.
The Nazi extermination camps were all located in Poland including the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz.
Today Poland has seen a re-emergence of Jewish culture and life. Old Synagogues are being returned to communities, often to be used as museums. Across Poland there are hundreds of monuments and exhibitions dedicated to the Jews of pre war Poland and the Shoah. In our learning of the Holocaust we must always realise that to know what was lost we must know what was there before.