Thousands of young Jews and Holocaust survivors joined the "March of the Living" retracing the steps of those slaughtered at Auschwitz and Birkenau.
by Nanette Van Der Laan, The Daily Telegraph, The Vancouver Sun, Friday, April 14, 1998
AUSCHWITZ - The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, led thousands of young Jews and Holocaust survivors on a solemn march through the former death camps of Auschwitz and Bierkenau Thursday.
He said he wanted to ensure the horrors that had happened there were neither forgotten nor denied.
The three-kilometre "March of the Living," retraced the steps of those slaughtered at the two camps.
"More than half a century has passed and we can still hear the last cries, the final prayers, the gasps of our brothers and sisters," said Netanyahu, standing near the former Nazi gas chambers.
"One third of our people were destroyed here by evil, evil so monstrous it challenges the elementary faith in humanity."
It was the first time an Israeli leader has taken part in the march.
For some Holocaust survivors, the march was the first time they had returned to the site since it was liberated by Russian soldiers in 1945.
Moshe Hai-Ilion, a Greek Jew who was at Auschwitz for two years, said he was unable to describe his feelings. "To think that when I was last at Auschwitz, we called this route 'death road', because if you were forced to go to Birkenau you knew you would die," he said, after he walked through the Auschwitz gates, which bore the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign.
"Now it's called the March of the Living. It's all so overwhelming."
Survivors and about 6,000 young Jews from 45 countries have spent the past few days visiting various sites connected with the Holocaust, including the Warsaw ghetto and the Treblinka death camp.
The march is part of an educational program on the Holocaust to disprove claims that the killings never happened.
An estimated 1.5 million people died at the two complexes' gas chambers, the vast majority Jews from across Europe.
After visiting sites in Poland, participants will fly to Israel to mark the country's 50th anniversary celebrations.
"The march is held to prove that we are alive in spite of the desire to eliminate us," said Sonia Horowitz, a teacher from Tel Aviv.
"The state of Israel was established as a result of what happened here, so I've come to pay my respects and remember those who died."