Dr. Robert Finaly was born in 1941 in Grenoble, France. In March 1944 his parents were deported to Auschwitz. Robert and his younger brother Gad (Gerald) were placed in the city’s Catholic children’s home. The manager of the institution cared for them but refused to return them to their family after the war, instead baptizing them as Christians. After a five-year legal battle by the boys’ aunts — during which they were hidden in various Catholic institutions in Italy and Spain — the boys were returned to their families and emigrated to Israel to live with their aunt. Today, Robert has two sons and a grandson.
At the age of nine I decided I was going to be a doctor, like my father. My father studied medicine in Vienna and on his certification, it was written in red that because he is Jewish, he does not have a license to practice medicine in the realm of Nazi rule. We fled Austria to France and my father worked as an illegal doctor, with the help of French doctors. One day, while he was going to visit another doctor, someone reported him and the Gestapo came to look for him on the street. During the process they also caught my mother, and they were transferred to Auschwitz on transport number 69.
I grew up from the age of three in a Catholic orphanage, along with my brother. I was a pretty disciplined Catholic - I went to church, I attended ceremonies and I thought there was nothing else. My main memory from childhood is running away from the Jews, because I was constantly told that the Jews killed Jesus. I knew my parents were killed because they were Jewish, but because from the age of three I was educated as a Catholic, that is what we had in mind. I did not know what Judaism was. In July 1953 I met my aunt for the first time, my late father’s sister, who came from Israel to Paris to bring us back home.
To march as a doctor in the March of the Living reminds me that I have fulfilled my father's dream. He fled Austria in order to continue working in the profession he studied, and I continued in his path. To march at such a place is equivalent to saying that I have succeeded in the task and it is not easy, to study and work in medicine. Even more so, I think I can say that I pretty much succeeded in this profession.
International March of the Living will hold a Virtual March on Holocaust Remembrance. The Virtual March will premiere Thursday April 8th on Israel media at 3:00PM IL, followed by the global broadcast at 10:00 AM ET / 4:00 PM CT / 5:00pm IL and will be followed immediately by an online memorial ceremony with the first torch of remembrance lit by President Rivlin.
One of the most moving aspects of the March of the Living is the opportunity for participants to memorial plaques with personal messages on the train tracks at Birkenau. The public is invited to participate and have their personal message virtually placed against the backdrop of the infamous train tracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Individual plaques and messages can be placed via a dedicated minisite https://nevermeansnever.com