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At Auschwitz, thousands join the March of the Living to honor the dead

People take part in the annual March of the Living to commemorate the Holocaust, a yearly remembrance march between the former death Nazi camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, in Oswiecim, Poland, on April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

OSWIECIM, Poland (RNS) — Seventy-three years ago this week Irving Roth, 88, was liberated from the Buchenwald concentration camp. He and his brother had been imprisoned in the Auschwitz death camp, but as Allied troops approached, the boys were sent on a death march to Buchenwald — where his brother died.

On Thursday (April 12), Roth, of Long Island, N.Y., returned to Auschwitz — now a memorial and museum — for the “seventh or eighth” time since his liberation. He was one of 70 Holocaust survivors who participated in this year’s March of the Living, a 30-year-old international educational Holocaust program that begins with a week of study and visits to Jewish and Holocaust sites and culminates with a two-mile march from Auschwitz to Birkenau and an emotion-filled ceremony of remembrance.

Roth’s grandparents were murdered here.

Although each visit to the barracks where he nearly froze to death, and the crematoria where his grandparents perished, causes Roth distress, he decided to return once again “because 70-plus years later, there are still hundreds of millions of people who want the Jewish people to disappear, just as they wanted them to disappear during the Holocaust,” Roth said.

This year a record 12,000 youths and adults from nearly 50 countries — one third of them non-Jews — took part in the program. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Polish President Andrzej Duda were among the speakers.

Holocaust survivor Irving Roth at the March of the Living in Poland on April 12, 2018. RNS photo by Michele Chabin

At Auschwitz, first-time participants gasped when they saw the piles of shoes, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, leg braces, limb prosthetics and cooking pots those who were sent to the camp brought with them.

Nazi guards took the items from their owners and sent most of them back to Germany for reuse.

“These items show that people had no idea they were about to be murdered,” Liz Elsby, an Israeli tour guide, said as she stood in front of a glass case containing baby clothes. “Each shoe is a memorial.”

Elsby, who has visited Auschwitz 18 times, said she returns time and again “to give a voice to those who were silenced.”

Other than the Holocaust survivors she met, Elsby said she has been particularly moved by the Catholic Poles who visit Auschwitz to learn and show their solidarity with the Jewish people.

Waiting for the march to begin and holding a sign on which was printed a Hebrew prayer, Wojtek Losse, a Polish teenager from this small town whose name is synonymous with the Holocaust, said he and several friends were attending the march “to bless the Jewish people in this difficult place.”

Losse said he and other high school students have studied the Holocaust in school.

“I would like to believe that most Polish people tried to help the Jews, but like every other nation there were those who didn’t help,” Losse said.

During the visit, the March of the Living groups met with members of today’s Polish Jewish community.

Nancy Sherman, from Long Island, said the week she spent in Poland “was incredibly sad” but she also felt “hope and inspiration from seeing so many people, especially young adults from all over the world, unifying together into a collective Jewish community.”

While the world Jewish community is often divided by religious and political differences, Sherman said, march participants sought common ground. People from the different religious streams prayed together, she noted.

The experience in Poland reinforced for her “that it is really a privilege to be a Jew, and that we must show the world that we are here and not going anywhere.”

Tovah Brandwein, from Delray Beach, Fla., turned 18 on the day of the March of the Living in Poland. She came with a list of her relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust. RNS photo by Michele Chabin

Tovah Brandwein from Delray Beach, Fla., turned 18 on the day of the march. In her hand she held a list of her relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust.

“My grandmother’s parents each lost their first spouses and children. They met, married and had my grandmother.”

Brandwein said the trip, her first in Poland, has given her a new appreciation for her Jewish heritage and history.

“Being here made me realize how important my Judaism is. I’m a link in a long chain that the Holocaust tried to break. People my age are the future.”

Roth, who accompanied a group of adult children of Holocaust survivors to the march, said that interacting with younger people gives his life meaning.

“History is something you try to teach kids but it doesn’t affect them directly and they get bored. But unless the younger generation recognizes the signposts that stood along the road to Auschwitz, we’ll get there again.”

Roth, who runs a Holocaust center and spends a great deal of time relating his experiences to young people, recalled how he once gave advice to a youth orchestra that was scheduled to perform at Auschwitz.

“I told them that the audience won’t applaud when they perform but that the souls hovering there will appreciate their music.”

When they began to perform, Roth said, “it was a warm night with no wind. But right then a breeze picked up and by the time they had finished the trees were blowing up a storm.”

The orchestra members emailed Roth to relay what had happened.

“They told me it was an experience they will never forget. And that is the point,” Roth said.

(Michele Chabin was part of a group of journalists invited to Poland by the March of the Living.)

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Michele Chabin

39 Comments

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  • AW COME ON. “There are still hundreds of millions of people who want the Jewish people to disappear”?!

    Then by golly DECLARE WAR ON THOSE 100,000,000s AND DISAPPEAR THEM ALL before they disappear you all!

  • Like everything called a “death march”.

    In the Philippines the Japanese army just took American prisoners on a guided tour of the jungles in 1942. 😉

    Now I can tell my great Uncle Morris that his immediate family weren’t really murdered en masse. That they just moved east and just never left a forwarding address. He will be so pleased to hear that!

    /sarcasm sweet sweet sarcasm

  • Elie Wiesel said prisoners were given the choice to evacuate. Primo Levi also describes about his choosing to say and other prisoners choosing to leave.

  • LOL! I wonder which holocaust denial site you cribbed that nonsense from (along with fabricated quotes on the subject no doubt)

    Wiesel described a death march in his 1958 book Night from Buna to Buchenwald.
    https://www.shmoop.com/night/chapter-6-summary.html

    -The prisoners aren’t marching, but running through the snow while
    the SS yell at them to go faster faster faster! The SS will kill anyone
    who can’t keep up.

    -Eliezer’s friend Zalman gets a stomach cramp.
    He stops for a second to try to relieve it and he ends up getting
    trampled to death by all the prisoners.

    -The road seems endless, but finally (after many hours) they are at last ordered to rest.
    Eliezer’s father directs him to a shed to sleep in.

    -When
    Eliezer falls asleep, his dad wakes him and warns him not to fall
    asleep—it’s dangerous to sleep in the snow. To sleep means death.

    -Death is all around them. Many people do in fact die while they sleep. Snow falls on the corpses

    Primo Levi never was on such a march.
    “Because of his fragile condition, he was not sent on one of the infamous death marches out of Auschwitz.”
    http://www.historyinanhour.com/2014/04/11/primo-levi-summary/

    The only people who make your claim are lying holocaust deniers. The ones whose work went up in smoke when David Irving admitted to lying and wholesale fabrication.

  • It’s Wiesel’s and Levis own words. Levi wasn’t on the march because he chose to stay behind. He talks about two Hungarian boys who were “afraid to stay” and said he probably would have left to but he felt weak.

  • Evidently not. Since their own words in their own books said otherwise. As I already demonstrated.

    “Levi wasn’t on the march because he chose to stay behind.”

    You are dishonestly adding in “chose to stay”. He was left behind because they couldn’t move him and weren’t expecting him to live.

    You are lying.

    Again, I would love to see where you get these assertions from. Not the Primo Levi one, but that death marches weren’t so.

    For more edification on the subject of the death marches
    https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005162

  • Both Weisel and Levi describe the evacuation as a choice. You’re calling them liars.

    The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, Day By Elie Wiesel, p. 100.

    Survival In Auschwitz By Primo Levi, p. 154.

  • No, I am calling YOU a liar.

    You are fabricating things about those two authors. Especially given my prior citation to their works directly contradicts your assertions.

    “Levi, sick with scarlet fever in the camp infirmary, was left to fend for himself and the other sick prisoners in the destroyed camp. After ten days of misery in the freezing cold, with bodies piling up and conditions deteriorating, the emaciated prisoners still alive were finally rescued by the Soviet army.”
    https://www.shmoop.com/survival-in-auschwitz/

    Wiesel’s own words

    We were given no food. We lived on snow; it took the place of bread. The days were like nights, and the nights left the dregs of their darkness in our souls. The train was traveling slowly, often stopping for several hours and then setting off again. It never ceased snowing. All through these days and nights we stayed crouching, one on top of the other, never speaking a word. We were no more than frozen bodies. Our eyes closed, we waited merely for the next stop, so that we could unload our dead

    https://www.thoughtco.com/holocaust-death-marches-1779657

    You obviously cribbed from a Holocaust denial site and are too spineless to link to it. Holocaust denying liars are the only people who make assertions such as yours.

  • I quoted their own words and cited page numbers from books they wrote. You’re saying Weisel and Levi are holocaust deniers.

  • You gave me a flat out lie that you obviously cribbed from another source online.

    Those works do not support your claim. Their words do not support your claim.

    Its not the late 1990’s anymore. The tactics of Holocaust denier
    liars is well worn by now. One of the lamest is yours. Pretending to
    cite a book source you are really using a site that you are afraid to
    cite to directly.

    ” You’re saying Weisel and Levi are holocaust deniers.”

    I am saying YOU ARE a holocaust denier. One who is lying about Wiesel and Levi.

    The Holocaust is a well trodden subject with a lot of websites concerning its history down to the minute detail. Why are you so afraid to link to one which supports your claim? By all means prove me wrong here with an online source. One which refutes they were death marches.

  • I directly quoted their books and provided you the page numbers. You’re a reality denier.

  • No you didn’t. You are a liar and a very poor one at that.

    Their works said nothing of the type.

    I proved my point with various sources which demonstrated you were lying. You are merely a using a tactic which was old hat even back in the early days of the internet.

    No online source to back your claim up? With all the material written about the Holocaust and those two authors. How very interesting.

    When have you stopped lying?

  • Direct quote from Weisel: “the choice [to evacuate] was in our hands…we could decide our fate for once”.

    Direct quote from Levi “It was obvious that they were afraid to stay with the patients and were deciding to go with the healthy ones.”

    You can’t read and you deny reality.

  • You are cutting and pasting from where (online site)?

    That is a rather big ellipsis and parenthesized area on the Wiesel quote. Ones that can easily change the meaning of the quote. The Levi quote does not indicate the march was voluntary either.

    I don’t believe those are direct quotes at all. Nor do I believe you have either book in front of you to make those quotes. Nor do I have to take your word on that either.

    One thing I have already demonstrated in various sources is: BOTH AUTHORS DESCRIBED IT AS DEATH MARCHES IN THEIR WORKS. YOU ARE LYING ABOUT WHAT THEY SAID AND MEANT.

    Again, the lack of online citation only makes you look more dishonest. Again the only people who make your claim are Holocaust denial liars.

  • A rather small ellipsis, the omitted words were “For once.” Both books can be previewed on Google Books, reality denier, go do it. You don’t believe those are direct quotes because you can’t read, similar to how you can’t read a Supreme Court decision.

  • “Both books can be previewed on Google Books”

    Yet no link? Because YOU ARE A LIAR

    Its funny how neither author supported your view in their works as I had demonstrated several times already in various quotes, and sources referencing either book as literary works. Two edited and out of context quotes (if even genuine, something not established) pale in comparison.

    No historian supports it. No historical source one can find online does either. You are full of crap.

    “You don’t believe those are direct quotes because you can’t read”

    Because you didn’t quote them. You are a liar. You cribbed an idea from a Holocaust denial site and are trying to cover it up with the lamest tactic they have, pretending to quote a book. Its what bullcrap artists do in online discussions.

    “similar to how you can’t read a Supreme Court decision.”

    Its funny because I quoted that directly and in context as well right from the PDF source (pg 4 btw for my last reference)

    Here I can even give an online version for you to verify (unlike yourself)

    https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-1168_6k47.pdf

  • You are calling Levi and Weisel liars. It’s funny how you can’t read. I gave you direct quotes and page numbers. You can’t handle the truth, reality denier.

  • Not at all. Since you are not quoting them.

    You can’t attribute those “direct quotes and page numbers” to anything which can be verified online. Yet I have attributed several sources online which say those authors said something completely different. One from Wiesel himself describing a death march in detail. Funny how that works. The only conclusion to be made is you are a liar.

    Now that you have beaten the “I am pretending to make book citations of authors, but not really” argument to death, do you have any online source to verify your initial claim? Historians, testimony, anything?

    If something is so plainly verifiable historical record of one of the most chronicled subjects out there, why can’t you find a single online source to verify your claims?

    BECAUSE YOU ARE A LIAR.

  • “I have attributed several sources online which say those authors said something completely different”

    You believe “sources online”, and not Levi and Wiesel’s own words.

    “do you have any online source to verify your initial claim?”

    As stated before, both Night and Survival in Auschwitz can be previewed on Google books. Stop whining and go do that.

  • Because you have not quoted them in a credible fashion. I believe sources I can verify, you have balked at any attempt to verify yours. Because you are full of crap. Liars don’t like to have their sources verified.

    Wiesel’s own words, you lying POS:

    “We were given no food. We lived on snow; it took the place of bread. The days were like nights, and the nights left the dregs of their darkness in our souls. The train was traveling slowly, often stopping for several hours and then setting off again. It never ceased snowing. All through these days and nights we stayed crouching, one on top of the other, never speaking a word. We were no more than frozen bodies. Our eyes closed, we waited merely for the next stop, so that we could unload our dead.”
    https://www.thoughtco.com/holocaust-death-marches-1779657

    Levi described and historians verify
    The approximately 850 patients who were not up to the impending march were left behind in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. The few who survived the following days with no support of any kind were freed by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.
    Many of them died in the weeks to come of the after-effects of
    imprisonment and disease, despite medical care provided by Red Army doctors and nurses.
    http://www.wollheim-memorial.de/en/der_haeftlingskrankenbau_im_kz_bunamonowitz_geschichte_und_aufbau

    Nowhere will you find anything concerning the march or even staying being voluntary. You added that part and deliberately quotemined (assuming the entire quote wasn’t fabricated).

    “As stated before, both Night and Survival in Auschwitz can be previewed on Google books. Stop whining and go do that.”

    So the answer is NO.

    If you were telling the truth, you would have given a link to it and shown me up. But you did not quote either source honestly, accurately (or probably at all)

    There is no other conclusion other than you are a lying sack of crap*.

    *BTW it was pretty clear you were quoting a specific Holocaust denial site, but I was not going to post a link to such garbage.

  • “Nowhere will you find anything concerning the march or even staying being voluntary.”

    You find it in accounts by Elie Weisel and Primo Levi.

  • I already did. You lied about what they said. We established that already.

    Do you have an online source to verify you aren’t a lying sack of turds?

  • The quotes are completely accurate. Your inability to verify them is making me laugh. Maybe you should ask someone to help you.

  • Because you said so? Not even close to credible.

    I don’t have to verify your claims. I already demonstrated your assertions were false. That you were lying about them.

    But in general, if I was repeatedly called a liar for not providing some online verification of my claims, I would make some effort to find a source to give as a link to support them. Assuming I was looking to refute such accusations. You clearly are not.

    You have no problem being called a liar. Fine by me. Your capitulation is duly noted.

  • If I were given direct quotes I thought were wrong I would spend two seconds looking them up, instead of screeching and whining and calling names, but that’s just me. Maybe you don’t know how to use the internet? You should ask a friend or family member or maybe your special ed teacher to help you.

  • But you didn’t give direct quotes at all. You are a liar. Plain and simple. Your word isn’t worth squat.

    I already had a plethora of verifiable sources which said you were full of crap. You simply went with the “nyah huh defense”.

    You have made it clear you have no desire to act in a credible manner. I guess you didn’t mind being called a liar then. You are done.

  • I literally gave direct quotes, not that you care. Have you asked a friend to help you look them up yet, or do you not have any friends? Clearly you don’t mind being laughed at.

  • No you didn’t. You lied. Very badly and obviously.

    Quote mining is so old school and transparent. Only idiots and compulsive liars use it. Like you.

    I refuted your premise entirely several times over with the same people you pretended to, but didn’t, quote. You have brought nothing to the table to show you are being truthful here.

    You lost. Liar liar pants on fire.

  • Calling direct quotes “lies” is laughably dumb, but then so is your inability to verify them.

  • It would only be dumb if you can prove online in a credible manner they are direct quotes. But I already verified them a while ago. You were lying the entire time. You blinked already when your veracity was challenged.

    You provided no link because you were cutting and pasting from a site which was obvious holocaust denial garbage.

    You lost. Bye bye troll garbage.

  • Your inability to verify direct quotes from books is funny, the way you keep going on about it is mentally ill.

  • I verified them already. You lied. Those weren’t real quotes. Your citations were phony. Your quotes are fabricated.

    Prove me wrong here with an online source and link. Especially one claiming the death marches didn’t occur.

    Should be simple to people who aren’t liars.

  • It’s really weird you would lie and say you verified them instead of actually verifying them. You’re more mentally ill than I thought.

  • No we don’t. Because we both know your quotes were fake and you are too spineless and dishonest to ever try to prove me wrong. Like with an online source to corroborate your claim.

    How does it feel to he such a sore loser?

  • The quotes are 100% accurate, which you would know if you weren’t too stupid to verify them.

  • Because you said so. But your wrong. They aren’t. I verified you were lying. You are too scared, stupid, dishonest, to ever show me up here. Poor Holocaust Denying Loser.

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