Just days after shouts of “Death to the Jews” and “Death to Israel” were heard at an anti-Israel demonstration in Berlin, the 8th March of Life in Berlin, with Knesset Member Matan Kahana, made a strong statement of support for Jewish life and for Israel in front of the Federal Chancellery.
After an introduction at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial that gave an insight into the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which marked its 80th anniversary this week, the march moved with hundreds of participants through Berlin Mitte to the Federal Chancellery. There, founder and president of the March for Life, Jobst Bittner, warned that we must not only commemorate the six million murdered Jews, but also confront anti-Semitism on our streets and within ourselves: “Standing up against anti-Semitism means that 80 years after the Ghetto Uprising, we do not look away, but resolutely confront every form of Jew-hatred.”
Holocaust survivor Dr Alexei Heistver, Chair of the federal association „Phoenix from the Ashes“, was born in the Kaunas ghetto in Lithuania. He spoke of how he was one of only 119 children who survived the numerous child actions. He was the victim of medical experiments in which his uvula was removed, which is why he could not speak until he was nine years old. He survived only thanks to a brave cleaning lady who took him and other children out of the ghetto in a dirty laundry bag, and a warden who looked the other way. “Children are the first victims in every war. We see this again today in the war in Ukraine. I hope one day this will no longer be the case.”
Bundestag Vice-President Petra Pau also recalled the children during the Holocaust who, for example, were brought from Berlin to England on the Kindertransports or whose parents lived in the Warsaw Ghetto and gave their children to Polish families and saved them. As future generations, we are not personally responsible for what the Nazis did, but we are responsible for ensuring that it never happens again. The current numbers of anti-Semitic crimes should set off alarm bells: “I thank you for showing your face and your flag here in the truest sense of the word!
Cantor Arie Zaloshinsky, whose mother was born in Berlin, thanked the participants who had travelled a long way to be at the march. He sang the “El male rachamim” in memory of the victims of the Shoah, and Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal then prayed the Kaddish.
Michel Gourary, European Director of the March of the Living, thanked the March of Life for its fight against anti-Semitism. His father had been part of the Belgian resistance and had been able to save 200 Jews from a deportation train: “We stand here today to remember the victims and to stand together against anti-Semitism.”
“It is with mixed feelings that I stand in Berlin in this week of Yom haShoa”, said Knesset Member Matan Kahana in his speech at the Chancellery. “My family’s roots are here in Germany and they were almost exterminated.” A pastor in Holland hid his grandfather, he said, but many of his relatives were murdered. Thanks to his grandfather and other survivors, Israel exists today as a safe haven for Jews. But it must be constantly defended against those who try to destroy it: “Together we will stand for a strong independent State of Israel! There is no forgiveness for what happened, but a joint effort for the future, so that these dark times will not be repeated.
Josias Terschüren, Head of Politics and Society at „Christians on Israel’s Side“, reminded the audience that today’s State of Israel is the fulfilment of biblical promises. However, its existence is still not somthing that can be taken for granted, but is exposed to constant threats – especially from Iran. “We are standing here today because they love death, but we love life: Am Israel Chai!”. This statement of support for the Jewish state was also declared by participants of the march from Berlin, Turkey and Indonesia.
In response to the moving story of Holocaust survivor Alexei Heistver, two German participants told of their ancestors’ involvement in the Holocaust and Nazi crimes: as a Wehrmacht soldier in Kaunas and a ministry official responsible for deportations and expropriations in Poland, respectively. They asked for forgiveness for the deeds of their ancestors and shared how the confrontation with this shocking truth motivates them today to raise their voices for Jewish life and for Israel.
The final rally ended with the Aaronic blessing over the government quarter and the sound of the shofar.
You can watch the live broadcast of the events here: