Thousands attend Auschwitz March of the Living to honour lives lost in the Holocaust

The memorial event is led by survivors of the Nazi regime and their descendents

Train tracks into Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, in Poland, are filled with written prayers and wishes for the March of the Living on April 18. Getty
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Forty survivors of the holocaust led 13,000 people in a march between two former concentration camps on Tuesday as part of commemorations for Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial Day, organisers said.

This year's 3km march in Poland marked the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and saw participants walk between the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, the largest Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War.

The Nazis tried to systemically exterminate the Jewish population of Europe, leaving evidence behind as the Allies approached in 1945.

Visitors today can view the watchtowers, remains of gas chambers and the huge piles of shoes, suitcases and other objects that the victims brought with them on their final journey.

German forces established Auschwitz after they invaded and occupied Poland during the Second World War, and killed more than 1.1 million people there.

They were mostly Jewish but there were also Poles, Romany, Soviet prisoners of war and others. In all, about six million European Jews died during the Holocaust.

Dignitaries in attendance on Tuesday included Italian President Sergio Mattarella and the Israeli Minister of Education, Yoav Kisch.

A bipartisan US delegation attended with US ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and his predecessor David Friedman lighting a torch.

For the first time, a torch was lit specifically for in memory of Tunisian and North African Jews who were sent to camps by the Nazis, organisers said.

“My grandfather was sent, along with thousands of Jewish men, to Nazi forced-labour camps in occupied Tunisia, where he was starved, beaten and tortured," Haim Taib said.

"His story reflects the reality of the Jewish communities of Tunisia and North Africa under Nazi occupation."

Founder and chairman of the Crossroads of Civilisation museum, Ahmed Al Mansoori, attended alongside the ambassador of March of the Living in the Gulf, Eitan Neishlos.

Mr Al Mansoori, attending the annual event for the second time, said it "represents a kind of hope".

"We are trying to revive the old history but at the same time to learn from it, to make sure this never happens again," he said.

"The descendants from second and third generations or others who are participating are a sign of victory, of triumph, to show that now that in the place of the Death March, of such terrible crimes, we now have a march of the living.”

Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, the march president, agreed with the sentiment, saying young participants would bear the responsibility for carrying forward the memory of the witnesses.

“They will be the voice of those who no longer have voice once they see and understand what happened in the past,” she said.

Some of those attending will travel to Warsaw on Wednesday to mark the Warsaw Uprising in a ceremony set to be attended by the presidents of Poland, Germany and Israel.

The revolt was the largest single act of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, and remains a potent national symbol for Israel.

Updated: April 18, 2023, 8:09 PM