For first time, American delegation attends March of the Living

“It was extremely emotional to be able to see thousands upon thousands of youth who have taken upon themselves the idea of “never again,” he said.

May 3, 2019 02:15
4 minute read.
For first time, American delegation attends March of the Living

Aryeh Lightstone, chief of staff to US Ambassador David Friedman, US Ambassador to Switzerland Edward McMullen, US Ambassador to Spain Duke Buchan, US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, and chairman of committee to preserve US heritage overseas, Paul . (photo credit: Courtesy)

WASHINGTON – For the first time, a formal US delegation took part in the March of The Living on Thursday. Eight ambassadors, along with other administration officials, attended the Auschwitz ceremony and pledged to fight antisemitism.

Paul Packer, chairman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, told The Jerusalem Post that this was his first time in Auschwitz.

“It was extremely emotional to be able to see thousands upon thousands of youth who have taken upon themselves the idea of “never again,” he said. “They were marching, not only with their host country flag from their home country, but so many Israeli flags that people are waving – Jews, non-Jews – showing that the Jewish nation is alive and well. No one will ever be able to defeat us.”

Asked about his personal experience from visiting Auschwitz for the first time, Packer told the post that it made him think about the last moments of the 1.3 million victims who were murdered there.

“There aren’t even words that could describe walking into hell,” he said. “You can’t even imagine mothers seeing their child for the last time or knowing that they’re going to die; thinking people are saying ‘Shma Israel’ for the last time. Words can’t even describe it.”

Ambassador David Friedman told the Post that he is emotionally exhausted from the visit to Auschwitz.

“The experience was very hard to put into words: powerful feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment, and at the same time of optimism – because there were more than 10,000 people here that are committed to preserving the memory of the Holocaust.”

He added that watching the people who attended the march made him optimistic. “And of course, the fact that the State of Israel has flourished and continues to grow, and serves as a reminder that Jewish life will never again be treated with such a lack of respect and dignity,” the ambassador added.

Friedman said that sending such a large delegation of senior diplomats to the March of the Living is a way to emphasize that the Trump administration is committed to fighting antisemitism. “There are a lot of people that talk about antisemitism,” he told the Post. “Of course, we all do, and we all care about it, and we all want to wipe it off [the map].

“[But] there’s something different about getting on an airplane and flying to Krakow: making a difficult trip to demonstrate just how important this is. And this was the best way we could find to emphasize the priorities of the administration: Just how much this matters to us, by bringing six ambassadors from all different countries to this very holy and important place.”

Ed McMullen, the Ambassador to Switzerland, told the Post: “It was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s my first time in Auschwitz and Birkenau, and I think our US delegation was moved beyond words. [It was an] honor to represent [US] president [Donald] Trump’s administration here at such an amazingly moving event.”

He also added that visiting the death camp was personal for him. “I have an uncle – my aunt’s husband – who was seven years old when his aunt and he escaped Birkenau. So for me, there was a personal component, and it was truly emotional and shocking to see how humanity can devolve to such evil. But I look forward to being a voice for change and to be a witness to all that I’ve seen.”

From Poland, a group of six ambassadors will fly to Israel. The delegation will include the American ambassadors in Israel, France, Germany, Switzerland, the EU and Portugal, in addition to Packer and Elan Carr, Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.

The group will meet with senior Israeli officials at the Foreign Ministry, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Gilad Erdan. In addition, they will also visit the City of David and the Western Wall tunnels.

“After the tragedy of the destruction that they just witnessed, I want to show them there’s a reason for hope,” Ambassador Friedman told the Post. “[I want to show them] that people can triumph over their tragedies; that people can build a better life and not be consumed by hate. And that the Jewish people will survive. And I think we’re going to show them in very different ways how Israel has responded to antisemitism – by building and by making the world a better place.”

McMullen told the Post that he is looking forward to his first visit to Israel. “I look forward to seeing the amazing contrast from this horrible experience in Auschwitz and Birkenau to how the Jewish people have thrived and built an amazing country in Israel. A successful beacon of freedom of religion, love and tolerance.”

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