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Passing on the torch to the next-gen

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Tali Nates, director of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, and Richard Freedman, director of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre, are among the leaders of the 27th March of the Living (2015), which has began in Poland on Monday and will run till April 27.
by SUZANNE BELLING | Apr 15, 2015

The SA contingent comprises 28 adults from South Africa while 44 local students are taking part.

It is a two-part educational programme that brings participants to Poland on Yom Hashoah, with a march between Auschwitz and Birkenau and then on to Israel for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, culminating in Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).

Rivlin GreekThis year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust.

With the worldwide increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, the focus will be on learning lessons of the Holocaust including fighting hatred, intolerance, racism and fascism.

To date 220,000 young people have attended.

The March, originally intended for students, have snowballed to include adults. This year there are delegations from the US, Canada, the UK, Mexico, Panama, Greece, Australia, Morocco, France, Austria, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.

The second part of the March of the Living deals with the continuation of Jewish life through the rebirth which followed the genocide of Europe’s Jews. Participants will study in Israel and a special ceremony at Latrun.

The main leader of the March this year, as in previous years, is Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, who is himself a child survivor.

Former participants in the March include Shimon Peres, Elie Wiesel, Oprah Winfrey, presidents, prime ministers, Jewish and non-Jewish faith leaders from across the world, parliamentarians and young people from across the globe.

Rabbi Lau says: “The appearance of anti-Semitism all over the world now makes it so we don't forget the days of the Holocaust. I believe that the March has a transformative effect. Jews who join the March from the Diaspora, return to their countries a little more Israeli than they were when they left - better able to appreciate the State of Israel. Israelis return to Israel with a deeper consciousness of being Jews.”

Shirley Sapire, of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, told Jewish Report, the organisers were proud to include Holocaust survivor Don Krausz in the local delegation.

In 1988, the leaders of the first group from South Africa to Poland were the late Professor Harold Rudolph, when he had completed his term as centenary mayor of Johannesburg, and the late Ronnie Mink, former vice-principal of King David Linksfield.

Dr Shmuel Rosenman, chairman of the March of the Living Board of Directors, pointed out in a statement: “With every passing year there are fewer survivors to tell their stories and so this year the March of the Living will focus on passing on the torch with participants becoming the witnesses for the next generation as we march under the banner ‘Every Witness becomes a Witness’.

“With the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, this year the March takes on extra significance as we ask whether 70 years after the end of the Second World War the lessons of that tragic period of history have really been learned.”

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