(photo credit: AP)
Holocaust survivor Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said during Monday's March of the Living that the suffering of Holocaust survivors is a disgraceful stain which shadows over all of us.
Around 8,000 people, from Australia to Canada, as well as Israel and across Europe, took part in the annual march, a three-kilometer (two-mile) walk from Auschwitz to the vast death camp of Birkenau, site of most of the gas chambers.
The former chief Rabbi of Israel spoke at the conclusion of the march which came to an end in Birkenau, saying that sixty-two years after the Second World War, the world has not learned its lesson.
Hundreds protest neglect of survivors
Even countries like Australia and Canada, which have no dispute with Israel, host hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents, he added. In Canada itself there were 963 such incidents, said the rabbi.
Lau also mentioned recent events in Asia and Africa, where hundreds of children die every hour which the international community must work to prevent.
Thousands of Jews from across the world, many draped in Israeli flags, marched between two former Nazi death camps to mourn victims of the Holocaust and celebrate the existence of the Jewish state.
Some 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles, Gypsies and others, died in the Nazi camp's gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labor before Soviet troops liberated it on Jan. 27, 1945.
A shofar sounded the event's start, and the column of marchers walked through Auschwitz's wrought-iron gates, which read "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "Work Sets You Free," on the path to Birkenau.
"We are very proud to come here to say 'never again,' and we feel that we have power now because of Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces," said Motti Barbagan, a 68-year-old retired brigadier general who fought in several of Israel's wars with its neighbors, including the 1973 Yom Kippur war. "We came here to demonstrate our power."
The march, timed to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day, brings together mostly Jewish teenagers from around the world to remember the six million victims of the Holocaust and to instill a commitment to tolerance and devotion to the state of Israel.
"We are all very proud to walk with our flags," said Zohar Cohen, a 16-year-old from Ashkelon, Israel, among a group of young Israelis waving a large Israeli flag. "Especially in this place in Poland, where the Germans tried to exterminate all Jews."
Speaking at the so-called "Wall of Death", where the Nazis shot thousands, Cohen said that she always longed to fight for her country, and was certain the visit to Auschwitz would only strengthen her resolve.
"I don't want to be a secretary," said Cohen, who enters the army in 18 months. "I want to fight."
Shmuel Rosenman, chairman of the march, said there were about 8,000 participants this year. He said he hoped each one would become an agent of tolerance back home and work to make "a better world."