Last week, Israel - and those who stand with her - observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. One of the ceremonies we told you about was the annual March of the Living, from Auschwitz to Birkenau. A partner of ours, Jacob Kamaras of JNS, traveled to Poland to take part in the march, and shares his emotional experiences and encounters - from meeting Holocaust survivors to young people to Christians who stand with the Jewish people - in this moving piece:
Sophie Wortsman. 16. Toronto. Student.
Benji Zoller. 18. Dallas. Student.
Sam Peltz. 83. Florida and New York. Survivor.
Jacob Kamaras. 30. Houston. Journalist.
We all shared the same experience on May 5—the 28th annual March of the Living, a 1.86-mile walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau as a tribute to victims of the Holocaust. But we took vastly different journeys to get there, and we arrived at the former death camp sites with divergent emotions.
Worstman—who marched with a sign bearing the name of her great uncle, Holocaust victim Abraham Rotenberg—called the experience “overwhelming.” She said she “can’t really imagine people being here” at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust, given that the site now features a “pretty garden.”
Unlike Worstman, Zoller has no direct familial connection to the Holocaust. His father’s family left Poland and his mother’s family left Lithuania, both before World War II. When he spoke with me, he was in the midst of struggling to connect with the Auschwitz experience. “I think it’s been a little hard for me to step into the situation, it’s not so relatable,” he said. At the same time, Zoller, who was traveling with peers from the Yavneh Academy of Dallas, considered the two-week March of the Living educational trip to Poland and Israel a “good way to come together” as a class of high school seniors.
Peltz spent the Holocaust in a ghetto about 60 miles from Auschwitz. He said that being at the march with so many teenagers—among a total crowd of 10,000 youths and adults—“gives me new life, new uplift, new hope for the Jewish future. Peltz had viewed himself as a “Polish citizen of the Jewish religion,” only to see that status “turned into destruction.” But he has returned to Poland several times since the Holocaust and cherishes the opportunity to spend a few dollars locally, just to prove that his destruction never materialized. I immediately thought of him when I passed a snack bar during the march.
Then there’s that 30-year-old journalist—me...