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Category : Participant Reflections

Poems of Life and Death by Simcha Paull Raphael, Ph.D.

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.

Read the poetry: Poems of Life and Death

To Live and Die with Honor: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (about 15 min.)

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.

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Liberation Stories from March of the Living Survivors

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.

See Yad Vashem’s education resources here.

Holocaust Survivor Alexander Henrik Laks Tells Liberation Story to March of the Living

Holocaust Survivor from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Tells Liberation Story to March of the Living

Holocaust Survivor Nate Leipiciger Tells Liberation Story to March of the Living Liberation Story

Holocaust Survivor Elly Gotz Tells Liberation Story to March of the Living

Speech by Dr. Mark Speigelman, Holocaust Survivor

Erin Minuk: Lighting the Match Withing

“First they came for the communists
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left to speak out for me.”
-Martin Niemoller

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Brody Appotive: A Speech

The plane touches down in Krakow where the air is cold and the sky fittingly gray. I present my passport at the customs check-point, am given a boxed lunch, and shortly thereafter become Student #12 on Coast to Coast Bus #2.  Our tour guide takes us through the town and down to the river where we have lunch and learn about Jewish life in Krakow before the war started. We visit old synagogues and schools as well as the downtown where the city looks beautiful and the people are friendly. I ask myself, “How could this have happened here?”… as it turns out ,my question didn’t have an answer. (more…)