Thousands Participate in March of the Living.
By Ha'aretz and Reuters
Young Jews from around the world joined Holocaust survivors on Monday in a march at the former death camp of Auschwitz to mourn millions of Jews killed during World War II by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany. Some 7,000 people from Israel and more than 20 other countries marched some two miles from Auschwitz to the remains of crematoria at the nearby Birkenau camp on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Day.
The route is followed every year in the March of the Living by young Jews, Poles and elderly survivors to remember the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, including 1.5 million murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau's gas chambers. "I'm shaking, I'm really just shaking... I'm still afraid to go up and touch the barbed wire," said Eva Slonim, a survivor of notorious medical experiments at Auschwitz, who had traveled from Melbourne, Australia.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, in southern Poland, was the biggest death camp set up by Nazi German invaders during World War II on Hitler's order to exterminate Europe's Jewry. "We hope and pray that our children can perpetuate the lesson of the Holocaust, the message of understanding and tolerance," said Slonim as the marchers gathered at the Auschwitz camp gate, bearing the infamous German inscription "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes you free).
Organizers of the march increased security due to violence in the Middle East and a recent scare in Hungary over a plot to blow up a Jewish museum. Young Jews, many wrapped in Israeli flags, were visibly shaken by the sight of Auschwitz's gallows and spartan wooden camp buildings surrounded by barbed wire. About 500 Poles joined the march in a sign of growing reconciliation between Poland and the Jewish community. Polish-Jewish relations have long been strained, mainly due to post-war pogroms carried out by Polish extremists.
Poland's pre-1939 Jewish community of 3.5 million had been reduced to a mere 300,000 by 1945 when the war ended. Since then many have migrated to the United States and Israel. Poland's Jewish community currently has some 5,000-6,000 active members.