March of the Living postponed as COVID-19 spreads across globe

Annual Auschwitz commemoration, which draws tens of thousands from around the world, delayed for first time since its founding

Illustrative: A March of the Living delegation at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland on May 5, 2016. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative: A March of the Living delegation at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland on May 5, 2016. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Organizers of the March of the Living on Sunday said the annual Holocaust commemoration in Poland has been postponed from its April date due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“After consulting with the relevant health bodies and officials, it is with a heavy heart that we are forced to announce the postponement of this year’s March of the Living in Poland,” said March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, in a statement.

“Our primary concern is the health of the many participants and the Holocaust survivors who would be joining them. Given that this is an international event involving 110 delegations from around the world, we have a responsibility to take precautionary measures in accordance with the guidelines given by authorities in various countries,” he added.

Poland has seen 11 cases of the COVID-19 virus and no deaths, according to local reports on Sunday.

A rescheduled date for the annual commemoration, which was originally set for April 21 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, has yet to be announced.

The delay marked the first time since the March of the Living’s founding in 1988 that the annual event was interrupted, the organization said.

The railway tracks from where hundreds of thousands of people were directed to the gas chambers to be murdered inside the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau or Auschwitz II, in Oswiecim, Poland, on December 7, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/AP/File)

The March of the Living brings together thousands of participants, many from Jewish schools and youth movements, from more than 20 countries to Auschwitz on Yom Hashoah, Israel’s day of commemoration for Holocaust victims. Each country delegation is composed of smaller delegations from various organizations.

Israel had said it would not be sending a delegation this year as per the decision of its Education Ministry, according to a spokeswoman for Shlomit, an Israeli association representing members of national service groups.

People from all over the world participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 24, 2017. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Two weeks ago, Israel suspended indefinitely all school trips to Poland, where the Israeli Education Ministry helps facilitate tours of death camps for hundreds of thousands of Israeli students.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in a recommendation earlier this week said that “travel agencies and organizers of trips to the Memorial to desist from the arrival of people from places found to be infected.”

Over 100,000 have been infected globally since the December outbreak of the coronavirus in Hubei province, China, and cases in more than 50 countries have resulted in thousands of deaths.

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