More than 10,000 youth from around the world are set to participate this year on Holocaust Memorial Day — Yom HaShoah — to pay tribute to all victims of the Holocaust, and to call for an end to anti-Semitism.
Holocaust Memorial Day this year falls on Thursday, May 2, when for the first time in the history of the annual International March of the Living, the event’s main ceremony will honor Greek Jewry, which was almost completely annihilated by the Nazis and their collaborators.
A special delegation of U.S. Ambassadors and White House representatives headed by the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and including U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr, will join the thousands of young international participants and dozens of Holocaust survivors on the three-kilometer march from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
Other high-profile participants will include Prime Minister of Romania and President of Council of EU Viorica Dăncilă, Holocaust survivor and Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Lau, who has accompanied every march since 1988, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, who will be leading the Jewish Agency delegation behind a far-reaching international campaign against anti-Semitism, and the New England Revolution, an American professional soccer club proudly supporting the #SayNoToAntisemitism campaign.
The event — the 31st annual International March of the Living to take place — will also include a performance by singer Yehuda Poliker, the son of Holocaust survivors from Salonika, Greece, who recently marked 30 years since the debut of his album “Ash and Dust.”
In response to the torrent of anti-Semitic events and growing trend of hate crimes against Jews around the world over the last two year, the March of the Living will host the first-ever ‘Emerging Leadership Conference’ in Krakow ahead of the march for hundreds of youth from around the world who have been impacted by anti-Semitism.
Conference organizers said that 20 youth representatives – Jewish and non-Jewish – are scheduled to sign an official declaration during the event to launch the campaign, a rallying and defiant call to other youth to commemorate the Holocaust and help put an end to anti-Semitism before history repeats itself. The youth leaders will then heavily promote the campaign via social media platforms under the hashtag #SayNoToAntisemitism.
“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has been rearing its ugly head quite a bit lately. To make things worse, studies have shown that about half of US and European youth have never even heard of Auschwitz before, which stands as a symbol of the destructive power of anti-Semitism,” said Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, Founder and Co-Chairman of the March of the Living.
“One of the March of the Living’s longstanding goals is to combat anti-Semitism by promoting Holocaust education. We are here to say in a clear voice: ‘Never again.’ We march to remind the world of the horrors that occurred during the Holocaust and to lead a global movement to combat anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
To honor Greek Jewry, Greece will also send a distinguished delegation to the march, headed by His All-Holiness Bartholomew I Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, the leader of tens of millions of Orthodox Christians around the world, and the Speaker of the Greek Parliament, Mr. Nikos Voutsis.
The International March of the Living is an immersive Holocaust education experience – the largest of its kind – that brings tens of thousands of individuals to Poland every year to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred. Since its inception in 1988, more than 300,000 participants from 52 countries have marched down the same 3-kilometer path leading from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Memorial Day as a tribute to all victims of the Holocaust. Over the last 30 years, high-profile participants have included Israeli Prime Ministers, Presidents, Members of Knesset, Chiefs of Staff, and Ministers, as well as Presidents, Ministers of Education, intellectuals, and educators from around the world.
Prior to the march on Holocaust Memorial Day, the participating youth delegations – comprised of both Jews and non-Jews – will visit ghettos, monuments and death camps to learn about life in Europe prior to World War II, the Holocaust and the suffering of its tens of millions of victims. Following the march, more than 6,000 participants will continue on to Israel for a week of study that will culminate in Israel’s Independence Day celebrations.