Every year since 1988 the March of the living program sends thousands of Jewish teens from all corners of the Earth to gather together in Poland and Israel for a Heritage trip that educates them about the Shoah and the creation of the state of Israel . The profound impact of this first hand experience changes their lives.
The March of the Living Experience
On Yom HaShoah thousands of Jewish teens from countries around the world shared in a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they march three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built by the Nazis during World War II. You could be on the next trip— along with thousands of other taking part in this event.
The March takes place on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – established in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the war. As one of the Marchers representing some thirty nations, you will walk hand in hand in silent tribute to all victims of the Holocaust.
In POLAND: The program included visits to a number of Polish cities, towns and villages that were once vibrant centers of Jewish life and learning. Participants saw historic sites in Warsaw, including the cemetery, ghetto memorial and Mila 18. They got to visit Krakow, where they saw the Jewish Quarter and synagogues, and Lublin, where they saw the famous Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin. They also visited the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, and Treblinka where much of European Jewry was annihilated. Their experience in Poland was marked by special observances, culminating with the March of the Living itself on Yom Hashoah. Yet even in Poland there were moments of hope; Participants had the opportunity to connect with a new generation of Polish Jews who are committed to keeping Judaism alive in Poland. They met with non-Jewish Polish students to discuss our shared past and to build bridges between our two cultures. They met one of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ and be inspired by the courageous stand they took in risking their lives to save Jews during the Shoah.
In ISRAEL: The program combined visits to a number of exciting places and ancient sites, including Jerusalem, Masada, the Sea of Galilee, Tel Aviv, the Negev Desert and more. During their stay in Israel they took part in many special events organized specifically for the participants in the March of the Living. On Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Remembrance Day – students will take part in ceremonies honoring Israel’s soldiers who gave their lives in defense of their country. The next evening, Yom Ha’aztmaut, included a celebration in honor of the 67th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.
There are no words to describe the array of emotions that I experienced while on the March of the Living. Many members of my family had walked through the gates of Auschwitz and now I have retraced their footsteps. It seems ironic to think that during the war people arrived at Auschwitz against their will and now people around the world choose to honour their memory by marching here again. From the darkness of Poland, arriving in Israel was an amazing way to tie together our past, present and future.
– Emma Fried, MOTL 2011
Their visit to Israel was a study in contrasts. In Poland they searched for traces of a world that is no more. Like many others, they left wondering how it was possible for the destruction of almost an entire generation of Jews to occur – but you will pledge to yourself to keep their memory alive. In Israel they encountered a country that is striving valiantly to keep the age-old flame of Jewish nationhood alive. On Yom Hazikaron they cried together with all of Israel as they mourn their fallen soldiers and on Yom Ha’aztmaut they danced in the streets of Israel to celebrate Israel’s independence with the entire country.
The Holocaust is a stark reminder of the anguish of our past – but Israel represents the hope of our future. This experience will show you how important both aspects are to your identity as young Jewish people.
Eligibility and Participation
All participants on the March of the Living are carefully chosen. Acceptance will be based upon emotional maturity and community involvement. Online applications include short answer questions including an essay. Students are also required to attend and interview in order to qualify for the program.
In many regions, if you are accepted, students are required to attend several educational seminars and a Shabbaton specifically created for the March of the Living. These seminars are designed to equip you with basic knowledge and background on the Holocaust and Israel prior to your departure. Key themes include: Jewish life before the war, history of Antisemitism, Nazism, the Final Solution, Zionism and the State of Israel, as well as your life as a Jewish person living in the Diaspora. Please contact your regional office to find out about their programming and pre-trip preparation.