On Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah), Thursday, May 2, under the theme “Say No To Anti-Semitism,” more than 10,000 Jewish and non-Jewish youth from 40 countries and dozens of Holocaust survivors and dignitaries from around the world participated in the 31st annual International March of the Living to pay tribute to all victims of the Holocaust and call for an end to anti-Semitism.
A special delegation of US Ambassadors and White House representatives headed by the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and a distinguished delegation honoring Greek Jewry, which was almost completely annihilated by the Nazis and their collaborators, headed by His All-Holiness Bartholomew I Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Speaker of the Greek Parliament, Mr. Nikos Voutsis, joined the thousands of international participants on the 3-kilometer march from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
“In taking part in the March of the Living, you are marching at a time when a growing wave of anti-Semitism is yet again sweeping the world. But in truth, anti-Semitism never really disappeared – it simply lay barely hidden under the surface waiting for the right time to strike again. And strike it did – in deadly fashion – at the Eitz Chaim synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, and just a few days ago, on the last day of Passover, at the Chabad synagogue in Poway,” said Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, Founder and Co-Chairman of the March of the Living, while addressing the participants just prior to the march.
“But today, on Yom Hashoah we gather together in Auschwitz to mourn our 6 million ancestors, a third of the entire Jewish people, who were murdered in the most unprecedented genocide in history. Today, we proclaim to our enemies with a loud and clear voice: We shall not be defeated! We will return here year after year to raise our voices against anti-Semitism and, indeed, against all forms of racism and hatred. As a survivor of Auschwitz once said, the only one thing worse than Auschwitz is if the world ever forgets that there was an Auschwitz. We promise to never allow that to happen.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog also led a Jewish Agency delegation behind a far-reaching international campaign against anti-Semitism. In addressing the crowd at Birkenau, Chairman Herzog called on world leaders to fight the rampant anti-Semitism erupting the world over, specifically highlighting the dramatic rise of hate crimes against Jews in Europe. “It cannot be that 74 years after this wretched war, Jews are once again unsafe on the streets of Europe. Jews cannot be murdered in Pittsburgh and Poway or anywhere! Let us heed the warning and take to heart the lessons of the Holocaust. World leaders must unite in zero tolerance for hate crimes of any kind.”
His All-Holiness Bartholomew I Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch echoed the sentiments of those who spoke before him, urging global attention to the current egregious wave of unchecked racism and hate. “It is not enough to remember the victims of the Holocaust in the face of the hatred that is sweeping the world. Silence in the face of helpless suffering and the ideologies of racism and intolerance only exacerbates this problem,” said the Archbishop. “We must do everything in our powers to prevent another tragedy like the Holocaust. The only way to accomplish this is by striking down all actions that are an afront to our basic humanity.”
One day prior to the march, more than 200 young leaders from 10 countries – Jewish and non-Jewish – gathered at the Jageillonian University in Krakow, Poland, to take part in the first-ever ‘Emerging Leadership Conference,’ an initiative of the International March of the Living launched in response to the torrent of anti-Semitic events and growing global trend of hate crimes against Jews over the last two years. Following a wide-ranging discussion of the young leaders’ responsibilities as the new frontline in the war against anti-Semitism, the students drafted a declaration that launched a campaign to rally the support of their peers around the world. The youth delegates read their declaration aloud for the first time at the closing ceremony.
“It has been said: ‘The path to Auschwitz was built by hatred, but paved by indifference.’ We have the ethical obligation not only as Jews but as human beings to transform the world we see into a place where we want to be,” read youth delegates Eial Rosenzvit of Argentina, Noah Tradonsky of South Africa, and Sharon Ghelman of the United States. “Reaching that goal requires us to understand that simply refraining from evil will not allow our vision to reach fruition, for it is in the active pursuit of goodness and the relentless search for kindness that humanity may fulfill its potential. With this declaration we vow to be builders of the future, not victims of the past, and here today we pledge to stand tall in the face of bigotry, raise our voice against anti-Semitism, speak out against racism, and commit to loving all our neighbors as ourselves.”
The ceremony also included the lighting of six torches, each one honoring a different group of Holocaust heroes: the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust; survivors of the Holocaust, who picked up the pieces of their shattered world and established new families after suffering through unspeakable horrors; the more than 1 million innocent Jewish children murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust; the countless numbers of rabbis, scholars and teachers murdered in the Holocaust, who dedicated their lives to teaching until the very last moments of their lives; the members of the resistance, who fought to liberate Europe from the hands of Nazi Germany; and those born in the State of Israel, where the Jewish people were reborn after the Holocaust.
Other high-profile marchers and participants include Prime Minister of Romania and President of Council of EU Viorica Dăncilă, Holocaust survivor and Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Lau, who has accompanied every march since 1988, and members of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club and Major League Soccer’sNew England Revolution, two professional soccer teams proudly supporting the #SayNoToAntisemitism campaign. In addition, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon led a delegation of dozens of UN ambassadors from around the world, including the ambassadors of Argentina, Latvia, Guatemala, and Honduras among others.
The International March of the Living is an immersive Holocaust education experience – the largest of its kind – that brings tens of thousands of individuals to Poland every year to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred. Since its inception in 1988, more than 300,000 participants from 52 countries have marched down the same 3-kilometer path leading from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Memorial Day as a tribute to all victims of the Holocaust. Over the last 30 years, high-profile participants have included Israeli Prime Ministers, Presidents, Members of Knesset, Chiefs of Staff, and Ministers, as well as Presidents, Ministers of Education, intellectuals, and educators from around the world.
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