UK joins March of the Living

By Jessica Elgot, May 5, 2011

The first full British delegation to the March of the Living joined Jews from all over the world this week in Poland to remember the victims of the Holocaust.

More than 8,000 people walked the three kilometres from Auschwitz to Birkenau, waving Israeli flags, singing "Am Yisrael Chai" (The People of Israel Live) and placing candles and memorial plaques on the railway tracks that took Jews in cattle trucks to the centre of the death camp.

The British delegation had 80 participants on a six-day trip to Poland, including three Holocaust survivors, students, Birthright alumni, JLGB leaders and two rabbis.

It was the first full delegation from Britain in 23 years of the march, although King David High School in Manchester has run day trips for pupils in previous years.

The UK March of the Living organiser, Scott Saunders, said: "I want MOTL to become just as much of a rite of passage for young Jews as going on an Israel tour. It is such an intense, emotional and educational experience. I'd like to take more next year, if we can raise the money. I want MOTL to be above cross-communal differences. We don't have to live and pray the same way, but on this we should be united."

The group was accompanied by survivors Chaim Fuks and Freddie Knoller. For 80-year-old Mr Fuks, it was a first trip back to the country of his birth since being liberated from the camps.

Mr Fuks, who survived Buchenwald, said: "It was a very emotional experience for me to come here, with my son. But it was something I had to do, unpleasant or not. "

The ceremony following the march was led by Israeli actor Chaim Topol, with an address by the former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau, himself a survivor. Film director Steven Spielberg and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent video messages of support.

Last updated: 11:09am, May 5 2011