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The Warsaw Voice » Society » May 7, 2008
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March of the Living
May 7, 2008   
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Almost 8,000 people took part in the "March of the Living" May 1 at the former Auschwitz death camp the Nazis built in Oświęcim, southern Poland. The March of the Living has been held for 20 years as a sign of remembrance and a tribute to the victims of the holocaust. The marchers set out along Death Road from Auschwitz I and made their way to Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau.

Most of the marchers were young Jews from around the world together with their Polish peers, although some older faces stood out. Henryk Mandelbaum, a former Auschwitz prisoner and the last surviving member of the Sonderkommando, a special unit of Jewish prisoners charged with disposing of the corpses of those killed in the gas chambers, was there as was Israeli army chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Chelsea London soccer club coach Avram Grant and Israeli singer and actor Chaim Topol, famous for his role in the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

Before setting out, the marchers visited several Auschwitz exhibitions devoted to the holocaust, especially those in Block 11, known as the "Death Block" and Block 27. The march started at the gates of Auschwitz where the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Brings Freedom) slogan still cynically glares out of the ironwork. The sound of the shofar, a traditional ram's horn used by the ancient Israelites for religious purposes, signaled the beginning of the march. The main ceremony was held in Birkenau and included a seemingly interminable roll call of the names of children killed by the Nazis. Pictures of the victims were displayed on large screens. The ceremony ended with the kaddish prayer for the dead and the Israeli national anthem.
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