30th March of the Living gets underway in Poland

Shlomo Artzi will perform two songs with his band at the main ceremony.

March of the Living particpants outside the gates of Auschwitz (photo credit: AGENJCA GAZETA/ REUTERS)
March of the Living particpants outside the gates of Auschwitz
KRAKOW – The Polish city of Krakow has been flooded with thousands of tourists from across the globe who are here to participate in the 30th March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Thursday.
The city of more than a million residents is bustling and hotels are full, as some 110 delegations from more than 40 countries comprising at least 12,000 people prepare for the historic 3.2-kilometer march on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Speaking to reporters outside the Remuh Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow on Wednesday, International March of the Living chairman Dr. Shmuel Rosenman said, “In this place [Poland], before World War II, there were more than 3.6 million Jews. Today, Jews from around the world are gathering here, not to visit graves of the righteous or empty synagogues, but to march on the same difficult path that Jews did during the Holocaust.”
Rosenman noted that the theme of this year’s march, being held a week before Israel’s 70th Independence Day and in the shadow of Poland’s controversial Holocaust law, is “From Holocaust to Redemption.”
“We won’t let anyone wipe out or diminish the memory of the Holocaust,” he said. “This memory is conveyed from generation to generation, and every one of us has an obligation to tell the story. I hope that in the meeting between the presidents of Israel and Poland, they will reach some kind of understanding that you don’t solve problems like this by passing legislation.”
The March of the Living will be led by President Reuven Rivlin, who will be accompanied by the heads of all of Israel’s security forces.
He is scheduled to meet on Thursday with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, who signed the law that makes it illegal to blame Poles for the Holocaust.
A number of other distinguished guests are due to take part in the march. Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon has brought a delegation of some 50 UN ambassadors, including the envoys of Hungary, Serbia and Tonga.
The Chelsea Football Club from London has sent a number of representatives, under its campaign to counter antisemitism, including its Israeli former coach Avram Grant, who is the son of a Holocaust survivor.
But perhaps the most popular guest is singer Shlomo Artzi, who will perform at the closing ceremony at Auschwitz at the end of Thursday’s march.
Artzi’s mother, Margalit (Mimi), who died this year at the age of 96, was a survivor of Auschwitz. His father, Yitzhak, a former member of Knesset, survived the Holocaust by working in the Zionist underground in Romania.
“I’m very excited about taking part in the march for the first time,” Artzi said. “It’s such a pity that my mother wasn’t able to see me undertaking this journey. I agreed to participate in her memory, and to remember my late sister, Nava Semel, who wrote extensively about the Holocaust.”
The 68-year-old Artzi has also addressed Holocaust issues in his songs, most notably in the lyrics of his songs “Germany Before the War” and “Like a Large Yard.” Accompanied by his band, he will sing two other songs on Thursday, “The Letter of Menahem Mendel,” and “I Carry with Me.”
Among the speakers at the ceremony on Thursday evening will be Rivlin, Duda, Rosenman and Yad Vashem Council chairman Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a survivor of Buchenwald, who formerly served as Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi and as Tel Aviv’s chief rabbi.
The ceremony will be livestreamed on JPost.com.