Thousands of young Jews from Israel and around the world marched on Monday between the two parts of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German death camp in Poland in memory of Holocaust victims, notably some 430,000 Hungarian Jews who perished there.
The silent annual “March of the Living” began when the shofar, a ram’s horn used for Jewish religious ceremonies, sounded by the former camp’s notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes You Free) gate.
With Israeli white and blue flags and dressed in blue rain jackets, the participants walked three kilometers (two miles) from the gate to a memorial in Birkenau, to hear an address by Hungary’s President Janos Ader in memory of the victims. They were accompanied by some survivors, Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner, and by Polish youths.
In 1944, some 430,000 Jews were brought to the concentration camp by train from Hungary. Most were immediately put to death in the gas chambers, while the others shared the fate of all of the camp’s inmates: forced labor, hunger and disease that most often led to death.
During World War II, the Nazis killed some 1.1 million people at the camp, mostly Jews, but also Russians, Roma, Poles and members of other nationalities.
The march began in 1988 as a biennial event, but was soon staged yearly.
So far, almost 200,000 Jewish youths have taken part in the march, according to the International March of the Living organizers, who intend it to be an element of education for new generations.