A RED ROSE is pictured during the March of the Living to honor Holocaust victims in Paneriai, near Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2012..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The son of the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel will light a torch in memory of his father during this year’s March of the Living, an annual educational program that brings people from all over the world to Poland and Israel to study the history of the Holocaust.
This will be the first time that Elisha Wiesel will join the march, less than a year after his father’s death.
The focus of this year’s event – the 29th of its kind – is how to preserve the memory and lessons of the Holocaust after the last survivor has passed away.
In the framework of the march, education ministers from 12 European countries will participate in an unprecedented gathering on the eve of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, organized by March of the Living organizers and the Austrian Federal Minister for Education, Dr. Sonja Hammerschmid.
“Every country and society has its own episodes of painful history, be it connected to events of mass violence, to colonialism or others,” said Hammerschmid.
“Austria and Austrian schools need to confront the long history of antisemitism, including before the rise of the Nazis, and especially the involvement of so many Austrians in atrocities during World War II – and foremost the Holocaust. We in Austria feel privileged to learn from the experiences of other countries – like Israel – and we gladly invite others to share ours.”
Over 10,000 youths from around the world will participate in the march, alongside an honorary delegation of 75 Holocaust survivors from different countries, the eldest of whom is 103 years old.
“The message of Holocaust remembrance must echo for generations to come. With the disappearance of survivors, the burden of memory lies with the coming generations,” explained Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, director-general of March of the Living. “That is our main goal – to connect thousands of young people each year to the greatest tragedy of the Jewish people and of humanity as a whole, so that the lessons will not be forgotten and the acts not repeated.”
A group of prominent officials from Israel will also be in attendance at the march, headed by Supreme Court President Miriam Naor. Education Minister Naftali Bennett will represent the government and attend the meeting of education ministers.
“The March of the Living this year is dedicated to one simple question: How do we educate without survivors?” said Bennett.
“To our dismay, the number of survivors who can share their story is rapidly declining. We must find new ways to remember.”
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot will lead the IDF’s “Witnesses in Uniform” delegation, which will include around 200 soldiers, officers and bereaved families. Like every year, the march will be led by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and a survivor of the Buchenwald extermination camp.
Since the first March of the Living was held in 1988, over 250,000 participants from 52 countries have marched down the 3-kilometer path connecting the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps on Holocaust Remembrance Day, as a silent tribute to all victims of the Holocaust.