Saying “never again” is not enough!
Representatives from 19 nations at the 5th March of Life Conference
The annual March of Life Conference in Tübingen has never before been as international as this year. Whole teams from 19 nations – from the USA to Ecuador, Lithuania, Finland and Great Britain – attended the conference. The participants took up the challenge to effectively combat Antisemitism in their own streets, as the motto “Bringing the voice against Antisemitism to the streets” states. An important aspect of this was to come to terms with history: “Every nation has a history of guilt. The right way to deal with it is to speak the truth, repentance and changing one’s way,” emphasized March of Life initiator Jobst Bittner.
The only survivor from Mykulychyn
The life story of Holocaust survivor Ruth Michel was also part of this truth. She is the only survivor of the last German raid in December 1941 in Mykulychyn. “I tell my story to show where xenophobia and Antisemitism can lead. I am also doing this because it is my personal fight against Antisemitism,” she explained in her introduction. Together with Ukrainian helpers, a special task force murdered all the Jews in the village by shooting them in the neck – men, women and children; including Ruth’s father Aaron Rosenstock. In 2010, Mrs Michel returned to Mykulychyn to search for the mass grave, which lay in the woods, overgrown and forgotten. “I had it cleared and planted with greenery and put up a commemorative plaque,” she told the eager listeners on the opening evening of the conference. It is one of many thousands of mass graves in Ukraine.
Ruth Michel’s story encompasses many nations: Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Bishop Anatolij Gavriluk from Ukraine and Edward Ćwierz from Kielce in Poland, spoke very personally about how difficult it sometimes is to break the veil of silence about anti-Jewish pogroms and Antisemitism in their nations.
An instrument of peace
But all the more encouraging were the many reports of how each March of Life brings about lasting and visible changes. One example is the mayor of the 12th district in Budapest. After a journalist found out about his grandfather’s active participation in a massacre of Jews, the mayor sought advice from representatives of March of Life on how to make reconciliation and coming to terms with the situation possible, and he later met with the Jewish community. More and more, the doors are opening for the efforts of coming to terms with the participation of the Hungarian population in the Holocaust. Already this year, there will be seminars in Hungary on personal working through the past.
In Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, the Marcha de La Vida was honored and awarded as an “Instrument of Peace in the City” in 2019. The city of Halle has also officially declared the March of Life as a municipal event against Antisemitism. Holocaust survivor Ruth Michel was very encouraged by the commitment of the participants: “I am very moved to see that there is perhaps is a new direction in Germany after all!
After repeated anti-Semitic graffiti in Helsinki, the Israeli ambassador personally called the Finnish March of Life Director and urged him: “You have to do something now! If you wait for too long, it will be too late!” Jobst Bittner also emphasized this in his speech on Saturday evening: “It is not enough to say ‘Never again!’ It is not enough to say, ‘We remember!’, but then not to stand up. Therefore, this is the call to all churches, to all pastors: Change your priorities! Raise your voice! Become active! Becoming active means this: bring your voice to the public, mobilize your churches, your congregations, your friends!” Then the motto for this year’s marches of life was released: Saying ‘Never again’ is not enough – actively against Antisemitism and racism and for Israel! Jobst Bittner explained: “We hope that this poster will be visible in the most diverse languages on hundreds and hundreds of marches; that this movement and our common voice will become unmistakable in our cities and nations”.
Shlomit Steiner of the Yad Vashem Memorial supported this call with her powerful lecture on the role of language in Antisemitism: “Don’t stop at ‘Never Again’, but deal with the core of the Shoah: this is Antisemitism that has been able to survive for centuries in the language of hatred. It did not begin in Auschwitz, but in the language of Antisemitism, which was tolerated in public and thus became normal. You must take action against it!”
This appeal is followed by the Marches of Life this year – become part of this common voice and come to a march near you.
You can find more information under the heading Events/Marches.
Picture gallery of the conference:
Videos of the conference:
Impressions 1st day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-XyFXRkp5M
Impressions 2nd day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE4TKk8-d-k
Night to Honor Israel: https://www.facebook.com/marchoflife/videos/194045578631460/
Song “Rumania, Rumania” by Aaron Lebedeff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDYl04o-Sg8
The play “Why there are no excuses”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urXiHIM14fY