The most transformative moments of my trip were those spent with people who endured the horrors of the Holocaust. The survivors’ passion and drive were unlike those I’ve ever encountered in any other human beings…Without the slightest sign of fatigue, they shared with us deeply personal stories with universal implications about human suffering, perseverance, and heroism.
One moment… left a particularly lasting impression on me, took place at the closing ceremony in Birkenau. Against the backdrop of barbed wire fences and ruins of crematoria, the survivors were getting ready to light the candles for Kaddish. Each stepped forward and read out the names of his or her family members who perished at the hands of the Nazis. One woman approached the microphone but was unable to speak. She stood in front of us and cried. Another survivor came up to her and said, “Wait, don’t cry. Look! Look at them! They are here for you!” She was right. “I looked around me and I realized that with me were hundreds of young people who wanted to learn, who wanted to remember, who wanted to prevent things like this from happening in the future.
I gained hope by listening to them and by sharing with them my own fears and insecurities. I came to realize that this is the only route to hope. We must listen; we must welcome opportunities to become exposed to other cultures and to other peoples; and we must educate each other. Hope can only be realized through mutual understanding.
Only through such an understanding can we promote knowledge and diminish hatred. And then, maybe, just maybe, will we be able to say “never again.”
Phyllis Greenberg Heideman at the March of the Living. (photo credit:Courtesy)
Jerusalem Post, by Phyllis Greenberg Heideman
As I reflect on my first March of the Living, I recall the eerie sensation of slowly walking into Auschwitz and timidly passing under the sign Arbeit Macht Frei… followed by the overwhelming sensation of walking back out. Back and forth I moved in and out of the most infamous of all concentration camps. Freely and defiantly, unlike my ancestors.
With each of the six million lives so brutally taken from the Jewish People during the Holocaust on my mind and in my heart, I think “Hineni… I am here.” I have come to remember you. And I am only one of many who have traveled from far and near to remember the past as together we face the future.
Each year, as I walk among the thousands of March of the Living participants, I remember that first visit and I become increasingly aware of the importance of this journey on the lives of those who touch that soil, who walk those paths and who come to understand the relevance of that time in history to their lives today. (more…)
On January 27, 2015, the world will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The 70th anniversary ceremonies taking place in Auschwitz-Birkenau are expected to draw dozens of foreign dignitaries, heads of state and royalty, including President François Hollande of France, President Joachim Gauck of Germany, President Heinz Fischer of Austria, King Philippe of Belgium, King Willem-Alexander of Holland & Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.
More than 3,000 guests will be in attendance, including about 300 survivors of the camps, several of whom will speak during the ceremony, along with 80 March of the Living alumni from Europe. This will likely be the last time when a sizeable group of Auschwitz survivors will be able to personally attend a significant anniversary marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The event is being organized by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the USC Shoah Foundation & The World Jewish Congress.
Please take a few minutes to watch: “Auschwitz-Birkenau: 70 Years After Liberation……A Warning to Future Generations”. In this video, five survivors who frequently accompany students to Auschwitz-Birkenau on the March of the Living, along with a number of March of the Living leaders and students, reflect on the meaning of the 70th anniversary and on the educational importance of Auschwitz-Birkenau to future generations.
From the Preface: In April 2006 I traveled to Poland as a participant on a March of the Living tour. Over the course of less than one week I visited the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek, as well as the killing fields of Tikocyn, and sites of the work camp at Placzow and the Warsaw Ghetto.
Walking the distance from Auschwitz to Birkenau as part of a retinue of nine thousand Jewish young people – on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day – was one of the most extraordinary events of my life. The entire week in Poland was both emotionally overwhelming and spiritually inspiring and healing. On one hand I could see the remnants of the torturous depravity of the Nazi extermination machine and only imagine the wretched suffering experienced by millions of Jewish men, women and children. On the other hand, I could feel the ancient resonance of medieval and early modern Ashkenazi Jewish life, and see the continued vibrancy of Judaism in the groups of young Jews who had come to Poland from countries all around the world.
For me personally, the most immediate and effective way to process the intensity of this week long experience was to write poetry, each and every day, usually right on the spot as we traveled through the various concentrations camps and memorial sites in Poland.
Poems of Life and Death is a compilation of poetry and photography emerging from my experience on March of the Living.
This 15 minute video tells the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising through the voices of the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Two Canadian fighters – Anna Heilman (of Ottawa) & Baruch Spiegel (of Montreal)- appear in the film. Both took part in the heroic uprising and their testimony in the film is quite eloquent.
January 27, 2013 – International Holocaust Remembrance Day Marking the 68th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz
On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, discovering the largest Nazi killing center in Europe. Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust, representing the depths of man’s inhumanity to man. Eighteen governments have legislated January 27 as an annual Holocaust Memorial Day. In November 2005, the United Nations passed a resolution to mark January 27 as an international day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust, and urged member states to develop educational programs to impart the memory of this tragedy to future generations. Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies will be organized on the international, national, regional and local levels, including in universities and schools.
In appreciation to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) for supporting this educational visit. Through recovering the assets of the victims of the Holocaust, the Claims Conference enables organizations around the world to provide education about the Shoah and to preserve the memory of those who perished.
New York Times, By ROBERT D. McFADDEN, JULY 1, 2015 Nicholas Winton, a Briton who said nothing for a half-century [...]
Yad Vashem Name Recovery Project
Since 1955, Yad Vashem has worked to fulfill its mandate to preserve the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust by collecting their names, the ultimate representation of a person’s identity. Millions of victims remain unidentified. Yad Vashem urgently calls upon Jewish communities to recover their names through a worldwide Names Recovery Project. Unless we assume collective responsibility for completing this vital mission, some of them may be lost forever. This is a race against time, before those who remember them are no longer with us.
I always had an interest in studying the Holocaust, and going to Poland to see where it took place was something I felt I had to do. A movie, book, picture or story can paint a picture, but stepping on the grounds of the concentration camps, seeing the Warsaw Ghetto, and hearing the stories from the survivors where it all occurred, was more than any movie, book or picture could ever explain. I knew this would be the case, and I knew it was something I had to experience first hand.
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