With the annual International March of the Living event cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the organization behind the educational program on Tuesday announced the launch of a virtual remembrance project, offering people around the world the chance to place their own plaque of remembrance against the backdrop of the infamous train tracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland.
The annual springtime event takes place on the Hebrew date of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) and has been held in Poland every year without fail since it began in 1988.
The new initiative provides the chance to digitally participate in what has been described as one of the most meaningful moments of the march, by composing a personal message and placing it on a virtual plaque along the Birkenau train tracks.
The virtual project, launched under the slogan “NeverMeansNever”, allows people around the world to continue the tradition of paying tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, honoring the survivors and committing themselves to the global fight against anti-Semitism, hatred and intolerance.
President Reuven Rivlin was the first to place a virtual plaque, writing:
“Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, the terrible tragedy of our people, as anti-Semitism raises its ugly head once again across the world, the nations of the world must stand together. Together, in the struggle against racism. Together, in the struggle against anti-Semitism and extremism. Together, for the protection of democratic values and human dignity. This is the mission of our time. This is our challenge. If we can unite around these things, then we can rise to the challenge.”
The march each year is joined by thousands of people from 150 locations around the world. Their numbers include people of all ages - and in particular Holocaust survivors, students and teachers - from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Italy, Britain, Japan, Germany, Hungary, France, Australia and Poland.
Since 1988, more than 260,000 March of the Living participants have walked the 3.2 kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau in tribute to the victims of the greatest loss in Jewish history.
“Our commitment to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and to future generations is that we will always be here to remind the world of the most horrific event in the history of humanity and the appalling consequences of racism and anti-Semitism,” says March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman.
“This year, for the first time in 32 years, we are not able to be march in Auschwitz-Birkenau, but that will not stop us. We will continue to educate the next generation with the values we have been teaching for three decades,” he says.
March of the Living President, Phyllis Greenberg Heideman adds: “We were bitterly disappointed to have to postpone this year’s March of the Living. However, we remain utterly determined to ensure that the unparalleled tragedy of the Holocaust remains at the forefront of the world’s conscience.
"Given the distressing recent rise in global anti-Semitism and today’s need for greater compassion and tolerance, the lessons of the Holocaust are more relevant than ever.”