Jews from 50 countries convene in Auschwitz for March of the Living

Some 10,000 people attended the March of the Living in Auschwitz in honor of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.  

Thousands of people from around the world, many of them young Israelis, paid homage Monday to the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust at the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz.

The event, the March of the Living, is a somber memorial march of about three kilometers (two miles) from the original Auschwitz camp to Birkenau, a much larger death camp where Jews were murdered in gas chambers in Poland.

Participants gathered under and near the main gate with the infamous sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Will Set You Free).

The blowing of a shofar, a ram’s horn used for religious purposes, was the signal for the large group to begin marching in silence down the main street of Oswiecim, past fields and along the historic train tracks that once brought people to their deaths at Birkenau. Many people carried Israeli flags.

The march was led by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor and former Israeli chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, himself a Holocaust survivor.

Many carried little wooden plaques with messages of remembrance that they placed on the railway tracks.

Ministers of education from several European countries also attended the event and learned about the Holocaust.

Speaking at the event, Bennett compared Israel to the Iron Dome anti-missile system and vowed that “never again will Jews be defenseless.”

“Sadly there are people attempting to rewrite history and alter the facts,” he added. “Some deny the Holocaust happened, others try to scale it down. They continue where the Nazis failed: they make it as though millions of Jews with parents, friends, wishes and fears never existed. But they are wrong, they are evil, and they will fail.”

Over 200,000 Jewish youths have participated in the march so far, according to International March of the Living organizers, who intend it to be an educational experience for new generations.

The Germans originally set up Auschwitz as a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners. As World War II went on, the Germans expanded the complex, building gas chambers and crematoria at Birkenau where Jews from across Europe, as well as Roma, Soviet POWs and others, were slain. Nearly 1.1 million people perished there.

By: World Israel News Staff
AP Contributed to this report.