Virtual memorial plaques replace reality on March of the Living

April 14, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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March of the Living announced the launch of a unique global Holocaust remembrance project, giving individuals around the world the opportunity to place a virtual memorial plaque against the backdrop of the infamous train tracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

President Rivlin signs his plaque

As the 2020 March of the Living will not take place on Holocaust Remembrance Day due to the Coronavirus world pandemic, this initiative offers individuals the opportunity to virtually participate in one of the most meaningful personal moments of The March by composing a personal message and placing it on a virtual plaque along the train tracks in Birkenau.

The virtual project launched today, under the slogan “NeverMeansNever”, will enable people around the globe to continue the tradition of remembering and paying tribute to the victimshonoring the survivors and committing themselves to the global fight against antisemitism, hatred and intolerance. The project reflects the ongoing determination of the March of the Living to promote the importance of memory by utilizing innovative technology to teach the timeless lessons of the Holocaust.

Individual plaques and messages can be placed via a dedicated mini-site https://nevermeansnever.motl.org/  
 
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin was the first to lay a virtual plaque, with the following accompanying message:

“75 years after the Holocaust, the terrible tragedy of our people, as antisemitism raises its ugly head once again across the world, the nations of the world must stand together. Together, in the struggle against racism. Together, in the struggle against antisemitism and extremism. Together, for the protection of democratic values and human dignity. This is the mission of our time. This is our challenge. If we can unite around these things, then we can rise to the challenge.” 

March of the Living is the largest annual international experiential Holocaust education program in the world and has taken place in Poland without interruption since its inception in 1988. Each year thousands of participants from 150 communities around the globe participate in The March, including survivors, students, adults, liberators and educators from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Italy, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Hungary, France, Australia and Poland. To date, more than 260,000 March of the Living participants have walked the 3.2 kilometres from Auschwitz to Birkenau in tribute to the greatest loss in the history of the Jewish people and all humanity.

“Our commitment to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and to future generations is that we will always be here to remind the world of the most horrific event in the history of humanity and the appalling consequences of racism and antisemitism” said March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman. He continued, “This year, for the first time in 32 years, we are not able to march in Auschwitz – Birkenau, but that will not stop us. We will continue to educate the next generation with the values we have been teaching for three decades.”

We were bitterly disappointed to have to postpone this year’s March of the Living. However, we remain utterly determined to ensure that the unparalleled tragedy of the Holocaust remains at the forefront of the world’s conscience. Given the distressing recent rise in global antisemitism and today’s need for greater compassion and tolerance, the lessons of the Holocaust are more relevant than ever,” commented March of the Living President, Phyllis Greenberg Heideman. She continued, “The ‘NeverMeansNever’ campaign is an important opportunity for people across the world not only to remember the Holocaust but to commit to building a better future for all members of the human family.”

In addition to President Rivlin, a number of international figures have also laid virtual plaques. They include human rights icon and Genesis Prize winner Natan Sharansky, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Natan Sharansky wrote the following message, “Today, more than ever, we will not forget the horrors; we will not forget the heroic deeds. As an important lesson for all of us, Jews and non-Jews from every corner of the world – must teach and work towards a life of compassion, freedom and tolerance.”

Ambassador David Friedman wrote the following message, “Just as we stand together to defeat COVID-19 we must unite to fight antisemitism. I wish I could return this year to Auschwitz-Birkenau but its memory is always with me. May the memory of the 6 million compel us to speak up where there is silence and educate where there is ignorance #NeverMeansNever”

Isaac Herzog wrote the following message, “How fragile is life. We have to be thankful for what we have daily.  The March of the Living – which takes place this year via computer and keyboard – reminds us of the fragility of life and puts it in proportion. May the memory of the six million be blessed, engraved in the collective memory of our people, and the world, forever and ever.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote the following message, “There are cultures that forget the past. There are cultures that are held captive by the past. Jews do neither. We carry the past with us as we will carry the memory of the Shoah with us for as long as the Jewish people exist. Those fragments of memory help make us who we are. Jews ‘choose life’.”

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