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Category : MOTL in the News

Auschwitz-Birkenau: 70 Years After Liberation……A Warning to Future Generations

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.

Parent of March of the Living alumni talks about being the Mom of an IDF soldier

(names have been deleted at the request of the family)
Following are the remarks delivered at a community rally in support of Israel this week.

I’m the mother of a Lone Soldier. The bravest man I know. He’ll be celebrating his 21st birthday next week.

Three years ago he was actively sabotaging his college admissions process. Not the normal kind of slacking off you’d expect from a high school senior – we found out from his guidance councilor that he was doing things that would have kept him from getting into college. He told us that he didn’t want to go right away and that he needed to join the Israeli Army.

He first told us when he was a sophomore in High School, and then again during the summer after his junior year. But I didn’t listen. The follwing year, he participated in the March of the Living travelling to Poland and Israel. Many days, he spent visiting the death camps. Outside Auschwitz, he called me to say that he’d made a promise to G-d. Standing in one of the gas chambers, he vowed that he would do whatever it takes to make sure nothing like this would ever happen again.

The Fall came and so did school. I didn’t have time to think a lot about that conversation—yet it was always in the back of my mind. Until the day we got the call from the guidance counselor. My husband and I realized we had to take him seriously. Our son agreed to apply to college, as a back up plan in case things changed with his Army plan. We were hoping that the excitement of campus weekends and his friends getting into schools would make him change his mind.

The day he got his college acceptance letter, he came to us and said, “OK….I got in, now let’s talk about the Israeli Army.”

Well, I was in Israel this past June to watch him and hundreds of other Paratroopers receive their red berets and wings as they finished their training. I was so proud.

If you’d told me that six weeks later my 20 year old kid would be in a war, going house-to-house in Gaza spending every waking hour searching for – and finding – entrances to terrorist’s tunnels, avoiding booby traps, sleeping in abandoned buildings at night, I never would have believed it. But for the past few weeks, that was his reality as a soldier, and mine as a mother.

Yesterday he returned to his kibbutz and I spoke with him this morning. He reaffirmed his commitment to Israel and his choice of making aliyah. The Galilee he said, “is the most beautiful place on earth, why would I ever leave?”

He is truly very courageous, and he believed that by joining the IDF he would become part of something much greater than himself, something that transcends just this moment in time. And he’s right. He’s idealistic – in a way that only 20 year olds can be.

He’s joined by thousands of other Lone Soldiers and tens of thousands of Israeli kids just as brave and idealistic as he is –kids who have willingly put themselves into harms way for us and putting Klal Yisroel above all else. Not for $240 a month in salary. Not just to defend a small country far away from Boston. For us, the Jewish people.

At age 18, when our son was standing in that death camp and made that vow, he knew that the Israeli Army IS the Jewish Army. And the future of the State of Israel IS the future of all Jews. There is no distance. There is no separation.

The fight of the Jewish people and all those who respect Democracy and Freedom will continue, until the people of Israel are permanently safe and secure from radical Islamic threat and terror.

Wishing for a swift resolution and peace for Klal Israel and Medinat Israel.

As you know, Israel is currently facing tough times. Around the world, friends of Israel are standing together in support of the country, its army and its people.

Please see the short film below produced by March of the Living Hungary:

March of the Living International expresses its condolences to the families of the three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teens – Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach

At this difficult time, we stand together with the people of Israel, with Jewish communities around the world – and with all people of good faith – to condemn this senseless act of violence and to express our undying commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel.

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

President Obama quotes Pinchas Gutter, Holocaust survivor who participated in the March of the Living, at USC Shoah Foundation Dinner

Remarks by the President at USC Shoah Foundation Dinner

Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel
Los Angeles, California – May 7, 2014

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. Please, please, everybody have a seat.

Well, thank you, Steven, for your incredibly generous words, for this great honor, for your friendship, and most importantly, for the extraordinary work which brings us here all tonight. To Robert Katz and all the members of the board and staff of the Shoah Foundation; to President Max Nikias and everybody at USC; to all the distinguished guests and to all the friends that I see in this audience — it is an incredible honor to be with you as we pay tribute to a remarkable institution and one that makes claim on our moral imagination. (more…)

Righteous Reunion: A Survivor Reunites with his Rescuer

Watch the CBC broadcast

March of the Living Budapest

March of the Living Budapest 30,000+ marching to train station where 600 participants will board train (of the living) to Auschwitz commemorating the 70th anniversary of deportations to the death camps (and the Shoah of Hungarian Jewry), with Irwin Cotler MP.

Earlier, MP Cotler chaired an international parliamentary panel on antisemitism at a special conference of the March of the Living Hungary.

Making Amends

Mosaic, By Robert Eli Rubinstein, April 27, 2014

A mysterious request leads the Canadian-born son of a Holocaust survivor back to the old country.

“There’s someone here to see you.”

“Who is it?”

“Her name is Magda Zelenka,” replied my receptionist. “She says she has something important to discuss with you, but she doesn’t have an appointment.”

It took me a moment to recall Magda. Decades earlier, my late father Bill had hired her and her husband Ferenc as superintendents of an apartment building in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. Despite his own shattered life back in Hungary, my father was remarkably free of vindictiveness, hiring Germans, Austrians, Ukrainians, Croats—even Hungarians—as long as they were the best qualified candidates for a job.

The Zelenkas proved excellent employees: hard-working, courteous, beloved by tenants. After long years of service, Ferenc suffered a series of heart attacks followed by a fatal stroke. Although Magda hoped to continue managing the building on her own, the challenge had proved overwhelming. She was no youngster, and hardly in the best of health herself. Nor, in spite of her lengthy residence in Canada, had she ever really mastered the English language, which made it difficult for her to communicate. With deep regret, she submitted her resignation, asking only that she be allowed to rent an apartment in one of our buildings. (more…)

‘Train of the Living’ to memorialize 70th anniversary of deportation of Hungarian Jews

HUNDREDS OF high school students from across the globe march from Auschwitz to Birkenau last year in an annual event sponsored by International March of the Living.
Photo: COURTESY OF BATIA DORI

The Jerusalem Post, by Daniel K. Eisenbud, April 23, 2014

Hundreds of high school students to ride train from Budapest to Auschwitz to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the mass deportation and murder of over 585,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II, hundreds of highschool students from across the globe will travel by train from Budapest to Auschwitz, where they will join 10,000 other students to march to the Birkenau extermination camp.

The four-day event, organized by International March of the Living to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day, will begin on Friday in Hungary, which is ranked among the most anti-Semitic nations in Europe. (more…)

Young and old walk hand in hand: For 25 years the March of the Living has striven to bond high school students with Holocaust survivors

National Post, By Abigale Subdhan, January 27, 2014

A Holocaust survivor takes part in the March of the Living holding a photos of himself as a concentration camp prisoner. A UN-hosted exhibit marking the March of the Living’s efforts will show hundreds of poems, quotes, photos and videos from the experience of students and survivors. Photo: Y. Zeliger

When Holocaust survivor Anita Ekstein first visited the death camp that held her mother, she couldn’t stop shaking.

She walked into the Belzec extermination camp in Poland to visit a newly opened memorial – and found her mother’s name, Ettel, etched into the wall. It was 2005, on Mother’s Day, more than 60 years after she had last seen her mother.

“It’s like my cemetery. We don’t have graves to visit, so now once a year when I go there, it’s like going to the cemetery there for me, my family,” the 79 year old says of her experience at the death camp where almost 435,000 Jews went to die.

Now Mrs. Ekstein’s story will be told at a UN-hosted exhibit in New York celebrating 25 years for an organization that bridges the gap between high school students and Holocaust survivors. (more…)