The March of the Living organization’s leaders on Sunday announced that, owing to the spread of coronavirus, especially in Europe and the United States, this year’s March of the Living in Poland on Holocaust Memorial Day will be postponed.
The program was established in 1988 and takes place annually for two weeks around April and May, immediately following Passover. Marchers have come from over 50 countries, including the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Estonia, Panama, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Hungary, and Turkey.
The climax of the program is the March of the Living, which is designed to contrast with the death marches that took place towards the end of World War II. When Nazi Germany withdrew its soldiers from the camps in Poland, the inmates – starved and stricken with disease – were forced to march hundreds of miles to the west, with those who lagged shot or left to freeze to death. The March of the Living illustrates the continued existence of the Jewish people despite the Nazi plot to exterminate us.
March of the Living World Chair Dr. Shmuel Rosenman said in a statement: “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. 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.”
Dr. Rosenman said that “plans for re-scheduling the march in Poland later this year are underway, with informed consideration to global health conditions and community needs.”
While the march itself is being postponed, the March of the Living organization will launch a campaign encouraging youth across the world to combat anti-Semitism and racism under the slogan: “Never Means Never,” possibly borrowing from the Me Too movement’s “No Means No.”
“Our educational message, especially in the face of rising anti-Semitism, will be communicated by other means this year,” Dr. Rosenman said. “Even if we are not able to be in Poland, we remain thoroughly committed to our values and our historic role. March of the Living organizers are exploring the educational alternatives, in which communities across the world would be able to participate in such a campaign.”
March of the Living President Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, said in a statement: “It is with a heavy heart due to the global attack of the coronavirus we will not march together on Yom HaShoah 2020. This by no means implies that we will be deterred from our mission and responsibility to remember the past and pay tribute to those who perished or honor those who survived. We will remain committed to educating the next generation and combating anti-Semitism, even as we look forward to our next March in Poland”.
To date, more than 300,000 participants from 52 countries have walked along the 3.2 kilometer long railroad tracks from Auschwitz to Birkenau.