The 8th International March of Life Conference Called for Action
Participants of the conference had traveled to Tübingen from 17 nations to be trained and equipped for the upcoming Marches of Life around the world. In addition to groundbreaking input for the March for Life organizers and national leaders, the time was spent planning for the coming two to three years and engaging in warm exchanges among the worldwide March of Life family.
Josh Reinstein of the Israel Allies Foundation and Knesset Member Moshe Turpaz (Yesh Atid) had come all the way from Israel. At the official Night to Honor Israel, which was streamed live in German, English, Russian, Spanish, Polish and French, Turpaz expressed his gratitude for the commitment of March of Life. He noted that it kept the memory of the Holocaust alive, but didn’t stop there; rather, it confronted antisemitism today: “When you march through European cities, you send an important message that you stand with Israel and the Jewish people.” Josh Reinstein explained that this proactive voice on the streets was the crucial difference to the way people reacted during the Shoah: “When I was a kid, I used to say, ‘How could something like this happen?’ But today we have you: This time we are not alone!”
Jobst Bittner, founder and president of the March of Life Movement, referred to Psalm 120, in which the psalmist calls upon people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which is not an empty prayer in the face of the daily attacks: “The heartbeat of the nations seems to be in Jerusalem. A body can only be healed if the heart is healthy.” This desire for peace was also expressed in the Hebrew songs of German-Israeli mezzo-soprano Shai Terry, who, together with her husband André Röll, thrilled the audience with classics such as Yerushalayim Shel Zahav and Noladeti LaShalom.
In a panel discussion, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and perpetrators of the Wehrmacht, the SS and the police met. Anna R. spoke about how moving it had been for her to meet Holocaust survivors in Krakow. Her great-grandfather had been involved in the atrocities against the Jews there as part of the gendarmerie. Yaar Harell, who in the documentary “Tacheles – The Heart of the Matter” finds out his grandmother’s story in Krakow, also emphasized that working through the past changed one more than one initially expected. In the course of the discussion it became clear how deeply the silence in the family affects both sides and how very real inherited traumas are.
These family stories were also the topic in a second dialogue with Udi Lehavi, who had been a representative of Keren Hayesod in Germany for many years. His mother, after her entire family had been deported from the Warsaw Ghetto, had joined the uprising under Mordechai Anilowitz in 1943. She survived the Majdanek concentration camp and eventually came to Israel in 1948 to the kibbutz Gan Shmuel, in which Udi Lehavi was born later. “I think that at some point we all will be asked about what we did in certain situations. So, what is your decision? I think each of us can make a difference!” replied Udi Lehavi when he was asked about what we can learn from his mother’s story.
Yom haShoa is the Israeli-Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day, which also commemorates the heroes of the resistance movement. That is also the reason why this day coincides with the Ghetto Uprising, which in 2023 will mark its 80th anniversary. This determination to publicly take a stand against antisemitism and not to remain silent is the call of the Marches of Life around Yom HaShoa this year. The organizers, who represent 59 Marches of Life around the world that have been planned for this year so far, launched the start of an active year against antisemitism and for Israel with the banner of this year’s Marches.
Are you interested in organizing a March of Life in your city yourself? Then register at www.marchoflife.org/yomhashoah/
You can also watch the Night to Honor Israel on YouTube. (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thLhF2nWSpA&t=9073s )
Report about the conference on JNS: https://www.jns.org/descendants-of-nazis-organize-marches-for-israel/