On 18 April 2023, the 35th March of the Living occurred in the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz. A group of Lithuanian representatives and participants from 52 countries walked along a road dedicated to remembering what happened there.
The international event, now in its 35th year, commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Participants from all over the world, Jews and non-Jews, joined together in a column carrying the names of their countries and the flags of Israel and other countries and walked from the Auschwitz Museum to the site of the Auschwitz – Birkenau death camp.
The annual March of the Living event at the Auschwitz Museum is a commemoration of the people who lived and were killed and a reminder of the consequences of dictatorial ideologies and the hatred they can spread. A group from Lithuania took part together with representatives from other countries: both young people and older people, aiming to see, learn, understand, and communicate this to young people. Ingrida Vilkienė, the International Commission’s Education Program Coordinator, met some familiar teachers from Austria, who came with more than 1,000 students representing the Austrian organization MORAH; in addition, she also met Theo Krausz from Austria, who worked as a volunteer at the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History in Vilnius from 2019 to 2020 and was in active contact with schools in Lithuania that have Tolerance Education Centers.
As a link between the young and the older generation, the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was marked by the participation of the grandchildren of the Ghetto Uprising fighters. This important idea of the March of the Living event was to bring different generations together, let them interact, and realize that history connects everyone.
The March of the Living event, as every year, was attended by former prisoners of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and Holocaust survivors. Every year, sadly, fewer and fewer of them are joining us. One of them, David Shaechter, now living in Miami (USA), said in an interview that he was brought to Auschwitz in 1941 from Slovakia. He was 11 years old at the time, and had been imprisoned in the concentration camp for about three years. The former Auschwitz prisoner said that being part of the March of the Living is a harrowing experience but that he must support a world where Jews and non-Jews live together. It is important to talk to each other because anti-Semitism is rising.
The March of the Living walked together for about 3.5 kilometers, and when they arrived at the former death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, a commemoration ceremony took place. Placards were placed on the surviving train tracks with messages in different languages – why we are here, why we remember, why it is important, and what message we are sending to the world by our presence.
The international event commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the heroic struggle against Nazism is held annually on Yom HaShoah – the Day of the Victims of the Holocaust and the Heroic Resistance to Nazism. The day is observed in Israel and other countries with Jewish communities. The 2023 March of the Living event attracted around 10,000 participants from 52 countries worldwide.
Lithuanian participants visited Treblinka, a former Nazi concentration and death camp near Warsaw, on their way to an event at the Auschwitz Museum.
Lithuania was represented by people from different cities and educational institutions: Alytus, Ariogala, Balbieriškis, Biržai, Kaunas, Kėdainiai, Marijampolė, Pakruojis, Radviliškis, Raseiniai, Šiauliai and Vilnius.
The Lithuanian group participated in the international event at the invitation of the Secretariat of the International Commission, which since 2018 has been cooperating with the European March of the Living organization EMOTL, which has been organizing March of the Living events for 35 years.
For more information about EMOTL: https://www.emotl.eu/.