"It doesn’t matter how many books you read, or how many lessons you listen to, we are all going to be speechless against the Nazi death mechanism."
Around 11,000 people participated in the annual March of the Living in Poland Monday afternoon, among them Holocaust survivors, youth, labor delegations, IDF soldiers and Jews from Israel and throughout the world.
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The march, which has been held for 25 years, began in the Auschwitz death camp and ended three kilometers away at Birkenau, known as the “big death camp.”
The march marks 70 years since the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and 70 years since the murder of the children of Greece, specifically, of Salonika. The mayor of Salonika and his Jewish deputy are participating in the event.
The March of the Living (Photo: Batya Dori)
IDF Brigadier General Agai Yehezkel, sounded amazed and emotional as the start of the march, to be led by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, drew near.
Yehezkel, who is to be in Poland for several more days, said he found it hard to digest the harsh sights. “The teeth, the hair, the shoes,” he said, “People who see these things here understand that there is no end to evil.”
Gantz said during a ceremony held after the march, referring to the threats facing the State of Israel, "There is no weapon or evil intention that can stand against the army of the Jewish people.
"Each and every one of you – members of our nation and its friends, Jewish and non-Jewish alike – you are the living proof of the victory of light; Victory of morality; the triumph of Israel. That from the destruction of the Holocaust we grew stronger as a nation and as a people," the IDF chief said.
He warned that "in light of the Holocaust and the thousands of years struggle for Jewish survival, we know better than to make light of the existential threats against Israel."
"As a military force at the cutting edge of modern technology and operational capabilities, we know full well that enemies who attempt to harm our civilians – are asking for their own demise," Gantz told those on hand.
The army chief said, "Every soldier in the Israel Defense Forces who wears a Star of David as a symbol of pride and not as a symbol of shame is part of this victory; this never-ending victory."
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau also took part in the march: "(Today) we have a home, we have hope, we have independence, we have a place to go back to. We will not remain here. We are going home. There are words people couldn't dream of saying 68 and 70 years ago."
Chief of Staff Gantz and survivor Michael Goldman
Lietutenant A, an officer in Shayetet 13, Israel's elite naval commando unit, was among the march participants. The officer has no family connection to the Holocaust, but said, “in this situation it does not matter whether you have a family connection – whether or not it survived the Holocaust. The emotions are hard. The issue is the feeling of being part of a people who experienced something like this. It is the history of our people, our religion.”
Major R, an intelligence officer, accompanied the delegation as part of the chief of staff’s entourage, together with his grandfather, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a Holocaust survivor who for years had served as the head of Yad Vashem. Said R, “My grandfather was invited by the chief of staff and it is completely different to do this together with him when I am in uniform.” Prior to the march, the group visited a local synagogue.“We stood inside with my grandfather and the chief of staff, and sang. It was very emotional and sad,” R said.
Dr. Yitzhak Arad and grandson, Major R.
Among the participants in the march was Michael Goldman, a Holocaust survivor who was among the interrogators of Nazi Adolph Eichman, and was present at his execution and the spreading of his ashes at sea. Goldman, who is part of a delegation from the Justice Ministry, spoke of his memories as a boy in Auschwitz.
President Shimon Peres had a message for participants in the march: “March, march as a people. Bow your heads in memory, and raise your heads for the State of Israel. There is nothing like this march among any other people, or in any other situation. Go out in peace and return in peace. We will add to the memory the pain, and continue to build a country that has not lost hope for a better world. Be blessed.”
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