Each year, they come. The young. The old. New generations. Survivors. Together, they march three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau and then to other camps.
Held on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), people from all over the world travel first to Poland and then on to Israel for the International March of the Living. The goal: to serve as a silent tribute to all victims of the Holocaust while also helping to educate people on the history of the tragic events, and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hate.
In 2010, I journeyed back to Auschwitz. Returning to the camp is never easy for me; it’s filled with memories I prefer not to resurface. But, returning is always important. This return visit was to participate in the March.
Initially, I struggled with sharing my story with the participants in the March. How much should I tell them? What was appropriate to share with them about my time there? I had mixed feelings, but in the end, as we walked through the remnants of gas chambers, through the crematoriums, I realized there were no secrets.
I knew as we walked through the former camp that everything had to be put out in the open. After all, that’s the goal with ZACHOR, and my own personal goal, too.
So, with a background of the horrific Auschwitz, I recounted my story of survival to more than the 200 who joined the March.
To say that walk was transformative is an understatement. It touched me. Profoundly. This diverse group sat safely together in a place which was home to so much death. Despite our age differences, our background, our own personal challenges, together we confronted this nightmare of hate. And, together we saw truth and love, working to understand how these killings happened, and ultimately, strengthening our determination to ensure history will not repeat itself.
Seeing these beautiful faces and their desire to take action and end hate warmed my heart.
Today, as another group of people take to Auschwitz, Birkenau and other camps, then later Israel, I send my love. My gratitude.
Participants in this year’s March are about to embark on an incredible and meaningful journey. They walk in honor of those six million lives who were taken. They provide a powerful symbol of unity, a symbol of the victims who were never able to leave those murderous grounds.
Honoring and remembering the past is the greatest method we have to prevent the tragedies of history from occurring again. It’s why I distribute ZACHOR pins. It’s why I started the online I-SHOUT-OUT campaign where people from all over the world speak UP and OUT for what they believe in and what they fight for.
If you’re not one of the people marching in Poland, please, take a moment to SHOUT-OUT today and be one of the six million SHOUT-OUTs we hope to garner to honor the six million voices silenced during the Holocaust.
And, if you are marching, I wish you safe travels. Baruch Hashem V’Hashem, Yit Bareich.
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