Christians join Jewish community in solidarity and defiance on Yom HaShoah march

The marchers also called for the release of the hostages


The March of Life on Yom HaShoah in London, May 6, 2024 (Photo: Gaby Wine)

It may have been raining on Monday, but the weather failed to dampen the spirit of defiance and solidarity as 1,500 people took to the streets of London to declare: “Never again is now.”

Marking Yom HaShoah, the March of Life saw the Jewish community marching alongside many Christians and people of other faiths and none, holding Israeli flags and posters of the hostages in Gaza, singing Israeli songs and imploring: “Bring them home now!”

After leading the walk from Covent Garden to Whitehall, Reverend Hayley Ace, founder of Christian Action Against Antisemitism, which organised the march alongside the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, told the assembled crowd: “It’s very emotional to see us united as Christians, Jews and people of all faiths and none standing behind a common theme of Am Yisrael Chai.”

“We have no tolerance for racism in England, and we stand against antisemitism.”

Ace, who has been a staunch supporter of Israel and the community since the October 7 terrorist attacks, told the crowd: “‘Zionism’ isn’t a dirty word. Don’t let anyone gaslight you. Zionism is amazing.”

The March of Life was founded in 2007 in southwestern Germany by couple Jobst and Charlotte Bittner and church ministries in the city of Tübingen in southwestern Germany. They have organised memorial and reconciliation marches, with descendants of the  Wehrmacht members (the military wing of the Nazi party), members of the SS and police force, together with Holocaust survivors, in 25 countries and hundreds of cities.

This year, was the first time that it was held London, which joined other UK cities in hosting a march, including Oxford, Belfast and Bournemouth.

March of Life UK director Mike McNally said: “On October 7, the world stood in condemnation [of Hamas], but within a week, people were shouting against Israel and for its eradication. We must say: ‘Am Yisrael Chai.’”

Jobst Bittner, who had flown over from Germany to speak, said through an interpreter that his father had “shared responsibility for the deportation of Jews…I want to ask you for forgiveness, and, at the same time, we want to make a stand for Israel.

“That’s why we remember the hostages. To this day, they are experiencing the horror of the Holocaust. We say: ‘Let them go.’”

Condemning Hamas, Bittner also expressed sympathy for the Palestinians, saying: “We remember the population of Gaza who are used as human shields by Hamas.”

Another speaker, Tina, who had come over from Germany, said that both of her grandfathers had been active members of the Wehrmacht and that her grandmother had been a supporter of Nazism. “None of them spoke about it. I am here to find the words my family never found. I am here to take a stand and say: ‘Never again is now.’ Am Yisrael Chai!”

In a poignant moment, as the sun came out, the descendants of the Nazi perpetrators handed over white roses to survivors and children of survivors, including Miriam Freedman, Renee Salt and Maya Lasker-Wallfisch, the daughter of Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who had survived Auschwitz by playing the cello in the women’s orchestra.

Six candles were also lit by Holocaust survivors to remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaus,t and a seventh candle was lit for the victims of the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks.

Miriam Freedman had survived by hiding as a child in former Czechoslovakia, going on to write about her experiences of the Holocaust and forgiveness in her book, Love is always the answer.

Miriam said: “I came here to say that I made peace with the Germans. It was very difficult, I resisted, but I made peace for myself.”

Similarly, Maya Lasker-Wallfisch said that she had moved to Germany to “find out if I could live in Germany as a free Jew.” Saying that she had “found a connection” with the late Wolf Rüdiger Hess, the son of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, Lasker -Wallfisch said: “It’s not easy to be born to a survivor, but it’s harder still to be born to a perpetrator.”

In a powerful message, Nova festival survivor, Millet Ben Haim, 28, who had seen friends shot dead in front of her by Hamas, said: “Hatred should not change our hearts. Keep on loving. This is our force. Keep on surviving; keep on thriving.”

Marc Cave, director of the Holocaust Centre and Museum in Nottinghamshire, said that “everything is encapsulated in the white rose. The values in the West are withering.”

Referring to “the anti-Jew – the extreme Islamist and the extreme leftist”, Cave said: “The anti-Jew is the demonic destroyer of everything we hold dear because they have lost hope or never had any. They glorify death, not life.”

He added: “The Holocaust would never have happened if Israel had been born in time, But Israel wasn’t born of the Holocaust. It was born out of positivity. [The Israeli national anthem] Hatikvah means hope. The people of Israel are all of us here.”

He said that in the garden of the Holocaust Museum were 1,200 white roses. “They are fragile….May we all spread branches of hope together.”

Rabbi David Singer led the Memorial Prayer, Kaddish and the Shema. The national anthem was sung, followed by the Hatikvah before a smaller group of walked to the Holocaust memorial in Hyde Park for a short ceremony.

The sculpture is now on show, having recently been covered by Royal Parks as “a precautionary measure” during anti-Israel rallies, a move which was slammed by Holocaust survivors and campaigners against antisemitism.

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