24 Nov, 2020

How will we continue to instill the memory of the Holocaust in the younger generation, in a world without survivors? That will be the focus of a special gathering, initiated by March of the Living International and the Austrian Federal Minister for Education, Dr. Sonja Hammerschmid, to be held on the eve of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, in Krakow.

Thousands of participants from all over the world will march on the tracks from Auschwitz to Birkenau, among them Israel’s Supreme Court President Miriam Naor; Minister of Education Naftali Bennett; IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, and an honorary delegation of 75 Holocaust Survivors. Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and a Holocaust survivor himself, will lead the march this year, as he has done every year.

Ministers of Education from 12 European countries will convene for the first time in an unprecedented conference on the eve of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, as part of the 29th Annual March of the Living International. The event will focus on the question of how to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and continue to impart its lessons, once there are no more living survivors. The special gathering was initiated by MOL organizers and the Austrian Federal Minister for Education, Dr. Sonja Hammerschmid.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home). (Tsachi Miri/TPS)

“To our dismay, the number of survivors who can share their story is rapidly declining,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett. “We must find new ways to remember.”

“Every country and society has its own episodes of painful history, be it connected to events of mass violence, to colonialism or others” said Hammerschmid. “Austria and Austrian schools need to confront the long history of anti-Semitism, including before the rise of the Nazis, and especially the involvement of so many Austrians in atrocities during World War II – and foremost the Holocaust. We in Austria feel privileged to learn from the experiences of other countries – like Israel – and we gladly invite others to share ours.”

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More than 10,000 youths from around the world will participate in this year’s March of the Living, and the journey will bring them to Israel as well. They will be joined by an honorary delegation of 75 Holocaust survivors from different countries, the eldest of whom is 103 years old. One of the more prominent participants this year will be Elisha Wiesel, the son of the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who will be joining the march for the first time and will light a torch in memory of his father.

“The message of Holocaust remembrance must echo for generations to come. With the disappearance of survivors, the burden of memory lays with the coming generations,” said Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, the Director General of March of the Living. “That is our main goal – to connect thousands of young people each year to the greatest tragedy of the Jewish People, and of Humanity as a whole, so that the lessons will not be forgotten and the acts not be repeated”.

The March of the Living is an annual educational program which brings individuals from all over the world to Poland and Israel for a journey of “from Holocaust to Restitution.” The goal of the March is to instill in the younger generation the history of the Holocaust and that they take upon themselves the joint commitment that this crime will never recur. Since the first March of the Living was held in 1988, more than 250,000 participants, from 52 countries, have marched down the same 3-kilometer path leading from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Remembrance Day – Yom Hashoah – as a silent tribute to all victims of the Holocaust.