BIRKENAU — The 31st annual March of the Living concluded Thursday afternoon at the memorial site of the Birkenau death camp with a rousing call to fight antisemitism around the world.
Thousands of participants, led by the first-ever U.S. government delegation, marched the three kilometers from the infamous gate of Auschwitz — beneath the “Albeit Macht Frei” slogan — to the death camp of Birkenau.
In total, over one million Jews, and nearly one million Poles, were murdered in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, among other victims.
From Auschwitz, the procession continued to the memorial site, where they were addressed by Holocaust survivors, religious leaders, and international officials.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew spoke to the gathering, as part of a focus on the Greek Jews of Thessaloniki, who were deported to Auschwitz in 1943. Israeli musician Yehuda Poliker, the son of Auschwitz survivors from Thessaloniki, performed two songs inspired by his parents’ experience.
Bartholomew acknowledged the example of Bishop Chrysostomos of Zakynthos, who helped save the Jews of his community from the Nazis. Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and a child survivor of the Holocaust himself, also cited the example of Chrysostomos, urging others to follow his example today in standing up to antisemitism around the world.
Six memorial torches were lit, representing the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. One torch was jointly lit by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who were part of the first-ever delegation of U.S. ambassadors to the March of the Living.
Friedman cited Thursday’s reading from the Torah, which includes Leviticus 19:16: “Do not stand by idly as your neighbor’s blood is spilled.” He pledged, on behalf of the U.S. government, to give “no quarter to the ugly and resurgent strains of antisemitism” appearing worldwide.
And he quoted President Donald Trump’s warning: “Those who seek the destruction of the Jewish people will themselves be destroyed.”
The ceremony continued with the recitation of traditional Jewish prayers for the dead, including the “Kaddish,” led by Holocaust survivors. And youth leaders read their declaration against antisemitism, which they had drafted the day before and overnight.
The ceremony concluded with the singing of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah” (“The Hope”), which includes the lines: “The hope is 2000 years old/To be a free nation in our land/The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.