March of the Living at Auschwitz overshadowed by Israel-Hamas war

Holocaust survivors and thousands of Israelis have joined a yearly memorial march at the site of Auschwitz which honours the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and celebrates the state of Israel.

The mood at the March of the Living was overshadowed this year by the war in Gaza after the October 7th attack on Israel by Hamas, the deadliest violence against Jews since Adolf Hitler’s regime sought to destroy the entire Jewish population of Europe.

The October attack unleashed a war which has led to a high number of Palestinian deaths, fuelling pro-Palestinian protests around the world.

A small group of protesters waving Palestinian flags stood along the side of the road as participants marched with Israeli flags from the site of Auschwitz in the Polish town of Oswiecim to the site of Birkenau about two miles away.

The area was under German occupation during the Second World War and today the former death camps are preserved as memorials by the Polish state.

“Through this protest we want to say that we bow down to the victims of the Holocaust too,” said Omar Faris, president of an association of Palestinians in Poland. “At the same time, we demand an end to war, an end to genocide.”

The march took place on what is Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Jewish calendar. A grim landscape of watchtowers and barracks was filled with the blue and white of Israeli flags, a celebration of Jewish survival at the place of genocide.

The event, now in its 36th year, usually draws thousands of participants, including Holocaust survivors and Jewish students, leaders and politicians. This year, Israeli hostages released from captivity in Gaza and families whose relatives are still being held captive also joined.

Judith Tzamir, a Holocaust survivor from Germany who moved to Israel in 1964, had long avoided visiting Auschwitz, but she was inspired to join this year’s march after her kibbutz fended off an attack by Hamas on October 7th.

“See, I try not to remember it all the time. But on the 7th of October they brought me the remembrance very, very harshly back,” she told the Associated Press at the site of the former death camp.

“And that’s the moment when I decided, OK, this is the time you should go to Auschwitz to see it.”


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