28th March of the Living
The 28th March of the Living was held on the grounds of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz on May 2. This year's edition was attended by about 10,000 people from more than 40 countries and regions of the world, predominantly Jews, and over a thousand students from Polish schools.
The 2019 anniversary is a particularly special one: 75 years ago, the Germans deported some 420,000 Hungarian Jews to the German Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, 75% of whom were murdered immediately upon arrival in the gas chambers.
The March of the Living was attended, among others, by the Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, the President of the Greek Parliament Nicos Voutsis, the representative of the Polish Government Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, the ambassadors of the United States from various countries, the ambassador of Israel to Poland Anna Azari and clergymen of many denominations. This year's march was led by Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.
After passing through the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate, the participants proceeded from the site of the former Auschwitz I camp to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. As the participants of the March entered the Birkenau area, the names of children who were murdered during the Holocaust were read out. The main ceremony was held at the monument commemorating the victims of the camp located near the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria II and III.
The Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, underlined that few places in the history of humanity evoke such fear and disgust as Auschwitz: 'I have never been in a place where cruelty was the order of the day, and brutality was so terrifying that it infiltrated the very nature of this place. Gas chambers, crematoria, barbed wires - all this transformed the lives of people who ended up here into an unimaginable hell.' Patriarch Bartholomew I finished his speech with a plea to oppose evil: 'Silence in the face of injustice and exploitation. Silence in the wake of helplessness and suffering and silence against the ideologies of racism and discrimination magnify the problem. We must do all we can to ensure that the tragedy of the Shoah never occurs again. And the best way to achieve this is to oppose contemporary evil and inhumanity. Never again.'
The central theme of this year's March was the fight against antisemitism, racism and intolerance that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the world. The musical motif was the theme composed by John Williams for the film "Schindler's List" and performed in commemoration of the Righteous Among the Nations.
'The Jewish people have gone thru tremendous pains and afflictions, we say on Passover Vehi Sheumdah which is a beautiful song about how every generation our enemies of all different types rise up to destroy us and to wipe us out and Hashem saves us every time. Finishing up this trip and experiencing this horror trip with all of you reiterates once again how our enemies in this case the Nazis tried almost successfully to wipe out our existence and once again Hashem saved us and we are all here together showing them that we Won and we will continue to win! We should be proud that we’re Jewish and never back down in the face of evil," said a participant of the March, Harry Krakowski, son of an Auschwitz survivor, actively involved in supporting the Auschwitz Memorial, and long-standing member of the Board of Directors of the American Foundation that supports the activities of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.
During the ceremony at the former German Nazi camp, the El Malei Rachamim prayer was sung, and the Kaddish was recited (the Jewish prayer for the dead). The participants of the March left hundreds of wooden plaques with the names of the victims on the railway tracks and ramp, where SS doctors conducted the selection of Jews for deportation.