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30th March of the Living


The 30th March of the Living was held at the site of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz on 18 April 2023. It was led by a group of about 40 Auschwitz and Holocaust Survivors. The President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, also attended the main ceremony.

The central theme of this year's March of the Living, an event that has been taking place for 35 years (initially held biennially), was to honour the heroism of Jews during the Holocaust. The march took place on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The March was attended by several thousand people, mainly young Jews from many countries worldwide, and several hundred students from Polish schools. After passing through the "Arbeit macht frei" gate, the March of the Living participants walked from the Auschwitz I site to Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

In response to why she visits the Memorial, Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich declared: 'As long as I am able, I wish to come here to pay my respects to the victims, keep their memory alive, and set an example for the younger generations. My message is not to forget the Holocaust, not to forget the victims, but also to focus on what happens when civilisation crumbles, despots rule, discrimination and prejudice escalate,' she said

Of his return, David Schaecter, now 94, an Auschwitz survivor, said: 'It is a harrowing part of my psyche and experience. Especially as I am a Jew from Slovakia, and Slovak Jews were the first Jews to be deported to Auschwitz.'

'I was deported to Auschwitz with my mother and two younger sisters. One was 7 years old, the other 5. I was 11 years old. I also had a brother, Jacob, who was four years older than me. He was intelligent and strong and took many punches that were meant for me. My brother made sure I survived,' recounted David Schaecter.

The main ceremony of the March of the Living took place at the monument commemorating the camp’s victims, near the ruins of gas chambers and crematoria II and III.

In his speech, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said: 'Today more than ever, when the tropes and arguments that poisoned the 1930s are emerging once again while Russia’s inhuman aggression against Ukraine is still raging, the memory of the Holocaust stands as a perennial warning that cannot be ignored. Hatred, prejudice, racism, antisemitism, extremism and indifference, delusion and hunger for power are lurking, constantly challenging the conscience of individuals and peoples.'

Y'ielding to manifestations of intolerance and violence, backtracking on protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, which are the foundation of our peaceful coexistence, cannot be allowed. Anyone who attacks the international order, that is based on these fundamental principles, must be aware that free peoples are and will be united and determined to defend them,' president Mattarella emphasised.

Earlier, the Italian President visited the site of the Auschwitz I camp, where he met with two Auschwitz Survivors, sisters Tatiana and Andra Bucci, and a group of Italian youth. President Mattarella laid a wreath in front of the Death Wall in the courtyard of Block 11, where executions by firing squad occurred, thus paying tribute to all the victims of this Nazi German concentration and extermination camp.

The President also visited a section of the museum's exhibition: block 4, featuring basic information about people deported to Auschwitz: Jews, Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, and representatives of other nationalities and groups incarcerated by the Germans in the camp. It features a model of the gas chamber and crematorium II from the Birkenau camp, Zyklon B cans, and human hair cut off from the murdered, as well as block 5, where personal items looted from the victims are on display.

During the March of the Living ceremony, six symbolic candles were lit, representing the six million victims of the Holocaust. The Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, was said at the end of the ceremony.

Participants of the March left many wooden plaques with the names of the murdered, symbolising Jewish tombstones - matzevot - at the Memorial. Some ended up on the tracks next to the ramp, where German SS doctors conducted the selection of Jews deported to Auschwitz for extermination from several countries in occupied Europe.

On the day of the March of the Living, the Museum also announced the launch of a project to preserve some 8,000 children's shoes in the Memorial Collection. They are a moving symbol of the suffering of the youngest victims of the German Nazi Auschwitz campz. It is funded by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation as well as the International March of the Living in partnership with the Neishlos Foundation and Israeli philanthropist Mati Kochavi.