Thousands of Virtual Holocaust Plaques to be Projected onto Birkenau Gates

March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman: “We simply could not leave Auschwitz-Birkenau abandoned.”

The entrance to Auschwitz (photo credit: AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM)
The entrance to Auschwitz
(photo credit: AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM)
Although the 2020 March of the Living will not take place on Holocaust Memorial Day due to the coronavirus pandemic, 10,000 people have participated in the organization’s virtual memorial plaque project during the past week. The plaques will be projected on the entrance gate to the Birkenau death camp this evening as Holocaust Remembrance Day begins across the Jewish world.
“NeverMeansNever,” the virtual project which launched last week, gives individuals around the world the opportunity to simulate one of the most meaningful personal moments of the march by composing a personal message and placing it on a virtual plaque along the train tracks in Birkenau. The project continues the tradition of remembering and paying tribute to the victims, honoring the survivors and committing to the global fight against antisemitism, hatred and intolerance.
To date, more than 10,000 individuals from 60 different countries – which is identical to the number of people that were scheduled to participate in the actual march – have laid personal plaques via a dedicated mini-site https://nevermeansnever.motl.org/  
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin was the first to lay a virtual plaque, and was joined by a wide range of international figures, including the heads of Israel’s security services, human rights icon and Genesis Prize winner Natan Sharansky, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, US-based Pastor John Hagee, actress Mayim Bialik, UK TV stars Rachel Riley and Matt Lucas, Israeli singers Shlomo Artzi and Ivri Lider, and Israeli soccer star Eran Zahavi.
In addition to screening the virtual plaques on the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” gates at Auschwitz-Birkenau, on Monday evening the plaques will also be projected onto the wall of Habima, Israel’s national theater. Actors and actresses from the theater will stand for a minute of silence during a memorial ceremony there.
On Tuesday, a virtual March of the Living ceremony will take place at 7:00 pm EDT and can be viewed live at https://www.motl.org/live/.  The ceremony will feature Rivlin, testimonies from Holocaust survivors Edward Mosberg and Irving Roth, and addresses from Jewish leaders, Holocaust educators, March of the Living alumni and more.
March of the Living is the largest annual international experiential Holocaust education program in the world and has taken place in Poland without interruption since its inception in 1988. Each year thousands of participants from 150 communities around the globe participate in the march, including survivors, students, liberators and educators from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Italy, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Hungary, France, Australia and Poland. To date, more than 260,000 March of the Living participants have walked the 3.2 kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau in tribute to the greatest loss in the history of the Jewish people and all humanity.
“This is the first time in 32 years that the March of the Living has not taken place on Holocaust Memorial Day, but we must never let the flame of memory be extinguished,” said March of the Living world chairman, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman. He continued, “We moved our activities to the virtual space and in this way, we have ensured that Auschwitz-Birkenau is not abandoned on this important day. Thousands of virtual plaques have been uploaded during the past week and many will be screened at Birkenau, sending a strong and clear message – Never Again.”
“This is a Holocaust Memorial Day unlike any other. Yet, its message is more relevant than ever. Remembering and educating about the unparalleled tragedy that is the Holocaust is absolutely vital if we are to eradicate antisemitism, racism and intolerance,” commented March of the Living president, Phyllis Greenberg Heideman. She continued, “I am delighted that the ‘NeverMeansNever’ campaign has given so many people across the world the opportunity to not only honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust but to express their determination to build a better future.”
“Our mission and our commitment to those who perished and to the survivors is to remember, to tell their story and to educate about everything that happened,” said Aharon Tamir, deputy chairman of the International March of the Living. He continued, “While we cannot be there physically, where such tragedy took place, we are there entirely in both mind and spirit. The fact that the number of people who have uploaded virtual plaques is similar to those who would have been marching, is a source of real gratitude and excitement.”