29th March of the Living
Following a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the 29th March of the Living was held at the grounds of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz on 28 April. The March was led by Auschwitz and Holocaust survivors, including Edward Mosberg and Stanisław Zalewski, as well as Andrzej Duda, the President of the Republic of Poland.
They were accompanied by more than 2,000 people from over 25 countries, predominantly Jews, and about 300 pupils from Polish schools. According to the organisers, the message of this year's March of the Living was the importance of passing on the responsibility for remembering and educating about the Holocaust to the next generation. As they rightly noted, remembrance of the past is a tool for teaching in the future.
Before the official commencement of the March, President Andrzej Duda, accompanied by Edward Mosberg, paid tribute to the camp victims at the Death Wall. The President also visted the basement of the so-called Death Block and the starvation cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe was murdered in August 1941. In September 1941, the Germans made their first mass attempt to kill people with Zyklon B in the cells of the camp prison. A few months later, the Auschwitz concentration camp became a centre for the mass extermination of European Jews.
After passing through the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate, the participants in the March of the Living proceeded from the site of the Auschwitz I camp to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The main ceremony was held at the monument commemorating the camp victims, located near the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria II and III. It began with a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the war in Ukraine.
At the ceremony, Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, said: 'The March of the Living is an incredibly moving event. Although it is accompanied by reverie, it is an event celebrating the victory of life. Even the worst totalitarianism cannot defeat the will to live and persevere.'
'We always say that we participate in the March of the Living, so it never happens again. That crime was born out of hatred. Today, we read the transcripts of conversations held by the Russian military with incredulity. These are conversations of ordinary people filled with hate,' President Duda stressed.
In concluding his speech, President Andrzej Duda said: 'We come here to show that although it was possible to wipe out my country from the map, murder Poles and Polish Jews during the Second World War, it will not happen again; that there is absolutely no consent to killing the Ukrainian nation, and that every nation has a sacred right to life,' stressed the President.
In a recorded address to participants at the March of the Living, Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog said: 'I was here three years ago. I marched to commemorate the millions murdered during the Shoa, to remember the martyrs of the Holocaust and honour the righteous among the nation - those who risked their lives for ours, and also to pay tribute to the heroism of the survivors. We marched and cried. We march to remember and declare that the death marches of eighty years ago will never occur again and will never be forgotten.'
'Commemorating the Holocaust is the duty of every person and nation. It is the duty of our generation to act on behalf of those who cannot; to stand up against antisemitism, bigotry, hatred or racism,' he added.
'I am a Holocaust survivor. The Germans murdered my entire family. My mother was murdered in Auschwitz. This camp, like others, was established by the Germans. Jews were not the only people murdered in the camps, but anyone, regardless of religion or race, who opposed the Nazi party,' said Edward Mosberg, a Holocaust survivor, during the ceremony.
'So long as I live, it is my duty to speak about the crimes committed against my family members and six million Jews,' Mosberg emphasised.
During the ceremony, six symbolic candles were lit, symbolising the six million victims of the Shoah. At the end of the ceremony, the Kaddish was recited - the Jewish prayer for the dead.
The participants of the March left several wooden plaques with the names of the murdered at the Memorial, symbolising Jewish tombstones - matzevah. Some of these plaques were placed on the tracks by the ramp where German SS doctors carried out the selection of Jews deported to Auschwitz for extermination from various countries of occupied Europe.