silvan shalom 248 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
This year's March of the Living in Poland will be led by Vice Premier Silvan Shalom and Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.
Organizers of the march have also announced that one of this year's goals will be to counter the Durban II conference on racism, which is scheduled to be held at the same time.
The conference has sparked deep concern and even outrage among many Jewish groups who have declared the second conference to be more of the same - a forum in which countries hostile to Israel will gather to single out and vilify the Jewish state.
A part of the march will therefore be dedicated to countering what march organizers have called a gathering of "anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers" in Geneva.
"The Durban committee that is preparing itself today in Geneva is an anti-Semitic committee that is pushing forth pure hatred, racism," Shalom said.
"The previous Durban conference only proved to us that there isn't enough memory, awareness or memorialization of the lessons learned in the Holocaust," he continued. "It is upon us to constantly work to remember the Holocaust, and that although the Jewish people were the first to suffer from the destructive hatred of anti-Semitism, they won't be the last to be affected by hatred. The March of the Living is our opportunity to make the saying 'Never again' become a reality."
Lau, who is chairman of Yad Vashem and himself a Holocaust survivor, has participated in the march every year since its inception. He echoed Shalom's comments saying, "As the chairman of Yad Vashem, I have seen the March of the Living, which began with a small number of participants 21 years ago, grow by the thousands since, to include such a wide number of people from around the world. It is truly a central aspect of the awareness of the Holocaust that must be passed on to future generations."
On the plan to counter the Durban II conference, Lau said, "The fact that the first March of the Living included numerous members of Knesset who themselves were Holocaust survivors, and today the fact that there are no longer any survivors serving in the Knesset, only speaks to the importance of our task, which is to show the deniers of the Holocaust in Geneva that we're still here."
March of the Living chairman Shmuel Rozenman declared that "the thousands of participants in the March of the Living, Jews and non-Jews alike, are the answer to all the anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers who at the same time will gather in Geneva to declare Israel a racist state."
He continued, "This year's march will stand for two distinct principles: to remember and immortalize the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and to protest against the anti-Semitic demonstration going on at the same time in Geneva. These young people who will gather in Poland from all over the world are the new witnesses, who will pass the torch of memory on to the next generation."
Over 7,000 high-school and college students are expected to take part in this year's march, along with dozens of Holocaust survivors and the children of Holocaust survivors.
The groups will also tour Poland for nearly a week before the march as part of an educational tour about the Holocaust and Polish Jewry.
This year the march, which tours the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps, is also taking place against the backdrop of the ongoing world financial crisis, which has deeply affected donations for the march itself.
Regardless, March of the Living organizers stressed this year would include participants from 40 countries around the world, and that over the last 21 years, the March of the Living has seen the participation of over 140,000 Jewish and non-Jewish youth from around the world.
The march itself, which will be held on April 21 - Holocaust Remembrance Day - will mark the finale of the young people's visit to Poland. A remembrance rally to be held at Birkenau will conclude the march.