The sand in the hourglass is running low. There are just a few grains left, the final bits of living memory, single candles flickering in the fading light. The number of Holocaust survivors, witnesses to the greatest atrocity in the history of humanity, is dwindling. Each and every one of them represents a historical document, a museum artifact of inestimable value. They bear with them and pass on testimonies that leave no room for doubt: it happened. They remind humanity at large what racism, antisemitism and hatred can lead to. They are living monuments to hundreds of communities that no longer exist.
One of the major educational missions of our time is instilling the lessons of the Holocaust within the young generation – a mission in which the March of Living has been playing a pivotal role for 35 years. The importance of this mission is further enhanced in light of the recent increase in hate and antisemitic incidents around the world.
One of the most important tools involved in transmitting the memory of the Holocaust are the survivors and their stories. How will we succeed with the mission after the last of the survivors is called to heaven?
Fortunately, we were able to hear and document the stories of thousands of survivors, and they will remain with us for eternity. Alongside them are the second generation to the survivors, who heard testimonials of their valor and are able to tell their parents’ stories.
All of these are important, but we have another tool, more important than all: values. The timeless values of human dignity, equality and striving for good that, by instilling them in future generations, will ensure that humanity will never again plummet to the chasms of evil introduced by the Nazis.
When we started out, 35 years ago, we carried the memory of the 6 million people who were murdered, the survivors and the billions around the world, even those yet unborn. We undertook then and we declare once again, that so long as our march continues, their memory will not be dimmed. We will continue to remind, perpetuate, teach and forever remember – never again!
Just a few remain. Of the hundreds of survivors that regularly joined the March of the Living, only 40 accompanied us this year. We are shrouded by a dark cloud when we think of survivors for whom this will be the last march. Who will go back once again to the cursed crematoria where they witnessed the ashes of our people ascending into the dark sky? Who will never again feel the rigidity of a dusty wooden bunk that served as a bed of despair, shared with 30 prisoners? Who will once again look into the amazed and shining eyes of youths, thirstily absorbing their stories, saving it in their hearts and pledging to pass them on?
Even if they no longer march with us on the death track between Auschwitz and Birkenau, the march of the Holocaust survivors – and ours – will continue to resound until the end of time. It is their will and testament; it is our duty.
By Phyllis Greenberg Heideman & Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, International March of the Living President and Chair
In honor of Holocaust Survivor Day 2023, and in cooperation with Yedioth Ahronoth/Ynet, International March of the Living has published “We Survived”. This compelling project contains moving images, interviews and quotes from many of the 40 Holocaust survivors who joined the 2023 March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Yom HaShoah.
The photos in “We Survived”, all taken on location in Poland during the 2023 March of the Living, were created by award winning and renowned Israeli photojournalist Ziv Koren.
Click on the flipbook below to view “We Survived”.
To view full fullscreen and download, click here.