The landscape bursts with joy around them — chestnut trees wave their delicate blooms, lilacs perfume the air, birds sing and pirouette overhead. Nature’s beauty is a stark contrast to their march’s purpose: to retrace the Shoah — the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.
It should be raining ash.
Back then, seven decades ago when he was a slave labourer, Glied avoided being at the front of a pack like this.
There, he was exposed to both the knifing cold that cut through his thin, striped pyjamas and the violent outbursts of the kapos, or prisoner-guards.
“You wanted to be in the middle, where you were hidden,” he tells his daughter. “When it was very cold, we would hug each other from front to back.”
Now 85, Glied is among the dwindling Holocaust survivors who return every year to the sites of their own imprisonment and the murder of their family members. Their goal is to teach students about what millions of European Jews endured during the Second World War.
The annual, two-week pilgrimage that began in 1988 is called the March of the Living. The first week, the group visits the sites of Jewish death in Nazi-occupied Poland — ghettos, concentration camps and death centres. The second week, they go to Israel to celebrate Jewish life.
The name is symbolic, but the trip includes a three-kilometre march between two arms of the Nazis’ most notorious camp — Auschwitz and Birkenau. Some 1.3 million people were murdered here over five years, 1.1 million of them Jewish.
At its peak, 9,000 people were gassed to death daily in Birkenau, their bodies burned in adjacent ovens. It is considered the world’s biggest Jewish cemetery.
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