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Testimonials

The following pages contain an assortment of Testimonials from both Students and Adults

 

Bernie Stang - 2017



We did know what exactly to expect…travelling with 60 other people in 2 buses all total strangers to visit and face the darkness……we had many reservations. Well March of the living (MOTL) was unbelievable, indescribable, gut wrenching, uplifting...

We visited synagogues in Krakow, many still intact, mostly now more museums than houses of prayer. A glimpse of Jewish life in what was once a thriving community of hundreds of thousands are now decimated to a few thousand. Restaurants in the old Jewish quarter with Jewish names touting Jewish food to hordes of visitors, Jewish and non-Jewish. The ghetto walls showing the perimeter of where the Jews of Krakow were herded into a small part of the city  away from rest of Krakow to expedite their journey to mainly Auschwitz –Birkenau, stuffed into cattle cars 100+ men, women and children, no water or food, a bucket in the corner, this carriage where they spent sometimes days getting to hell…a quarter of them died on the train, stumbling out with their suitcases just to be told leave them here you won’t need them for now…dogs, beating, killing ….. all including my own relatives on both my mother and father’s side subjected to the worst deprivation, insult, treated like vermin…massacred! We spent 10-12 hours a day for 6-7 days immersed…. in their pain and anguish! There were times we were so tired…the pain of being a witness…hearing first hand from survivors who we met; their strength still obvious.

The Program started on Friday and on Sunday we visited Auschwitz/Birkenau to see it in all its detail, we spent a long day there. The moment the bus pulled up to Auschwitz/Birkenau, the sky went suddenly dark, temperature really cold and then the driving snow whipped us as we descended from the bus. It was very odd, as if Hashem was trying to give us a small taste of what our ancestors felt and suffered!... here we were in late April not the middle of winter.

The next day the Auschwitz to Birkenau march…we gathered in our groups from many different countries under flags. We were an international group from Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, Panama, Costa Rica and Venezuela. We gathered near the Australian youth group. Emotions were high and a positive feeling could be felt. We waited for some time then we began to March the three km to Birkenau.

The sun was shining, right behind us the Israeli contingent marched 10 abreast, the joint Commander of the IDF in the centre with his officers in the front row with 60 soldiers, pilots and navy, both men and women. Beautiful strong and handsome, they lifted our spirits as they sang!

The march was long but easy compared to what the past brought. We entered Birkenau, the death camp, seeing the walls and entrance gate, the railway tracks, the platforms where they [our families] were dragged out of the cattle cars. We marched down the tracks, past vast areas of chimneys where the huts once were, down to the end where the gas chambers were. Amongst the chambers was a stage with speakers and seating, and we heard live music. The Chief Cantor of the IDF with the choir, violins, Dudu Fisher. It was evocative music. The Joint Chief of IDF, strong and clear, a speech ending in, “this will never happen again, NEVER AGAIN!”.

There were many other moving speeches from a Survivor and other dignitaries, culminating in all standing to the Hatikvah sung loud and clear, the tears rolling down my face, my pain melting a bit. This was one of the most moving moments of my life!   Then we strolled back to buses down the tracks, I laid tefillin on the tracks of Birkenau, what a moment.     

Our Group gave each other so much support and caring, we bonded in a most significant way! When we left the group on Thursday it was very hard saying goodbye, but they went on to Israel for the really uplifting part. We won, although with unimaginable losses. We, the Jews, are still here and Israel is the personification of that fact.

You decimated us Hitler but you did NOT succeed in obliterating us!
 

Yvonne Haber - Carer 2015

 
Joining the March of the living, as the ‘carer’ for the holocaust survivor, my father, was far more rewarding than I had imagined. Going to Poland, for the second time, this time with teenagers, gave it a depth and multi-layer experience including Sandy’s sharing of her knowledge at each place.

I found everyone remarkably mature and open to what I think was an incredibly harrowing experience. Virtually every place we visited was death. Both my parents were holocaust survivors. Theirs, and that of their friend’s experiences, was part of my upbringing. I always knew six million were killed, but the enormity and the reality of those numbers really hit home this time. As each person gave their testimony about the impact it had on their grandparents or people they knew or simply how it could have been them (with the twins Holly and Grace) makes me realize how vast the impact is.

There are some places I had been to before but this time we didn’t just walk past, we sat, we listened I heard the testimonies. When we went to Auschwitz the day after the March, I had thought,’ did I want to go there again’? However, when Ethan gave his testimony outside the cattle cart, then said Kaddish to his relatives that died there I was so glad I went. His softly spoken words will haunt me for the rest of my life. The other testimonies given just outside Canada were so profound. Sitting there listening to them as the wind rustled the leaves, the silence, except the softly spoken voices, belie the terror and death that occurred here not 70 years ago.
 
The highlight, however, was the surprised look on my father’s face when we were in the synagogue on the Saturday morning and he was asked to join the Rabbi to have his bar mitzvah. I had told my brothers before I left that this was going to happen, but it was a secret, to him anyway. Mili, my niece, and I were so lucky to be able to be there and share this with Richard. My father feels he got off lightly not having to spend a year learning his haftarah. I however feel that now he has had his Bar-Mitzvah he will finally have to grow up! Well not really his youthful attitude and energy is what makes him who he is! 
 
Thank you to everyone who made this happen, and especially to the kids who I think are so very special for wanting to do this and having the insight to know how important it is to not forget and to give meaning to the lives that were lost. To know that this should never be forgotten and should never happen again.
 

Jacob Riesel - 2015

 
One of the most touching and binding parts of the March of The Living program is having our very own survivor walking with us every step of the way. Richard Haber was one of the very limited remaining holocaust survivors alive today and we were fortunate enough to have him with us for every step of the journey. Walking into Madjanek was one of the more emotional experiences of March of the Living. It was the first time we saw a camp that had survived the war, a camp there solely for extermination purposes. I walked into Madjanek holding our survivor, Richard’s, hand. I’ll never forget how tight he squeezed my arm when we first walked in. I ended up standing there alone in tears and he was there to pull me out. Richard was so strong throughout the trip and having him there was so special to us.
 
After all these years Richard was also given the chance to be barmitzvahed. I remember being in the synagogue in Poland where the ceremony took place, the joy and excitement that ran through us all as we sang and danced with pride was something words cannot describe. It was so special having a man so strong and so inspirational there by our sides; he’ll forever be in our hearts as long as we live.

Gabriel Jammy - 2015

 
After a long, dark week of venturing deep into the black heart of the Holocaust, the 2015 March of the Living Australian group needed something to lift the mood a little. Many of us were perplexed; how on earth could we possibly transition from a week of traipsing through the lowest places on earth, to relaxing and enjoying the long-awaited trip to the Holy Land or Israel? Well, as the sun set over Krakow on Friday evening, the group welcomed in Shabbas by going to a synagogue. Here, we were plunged almost instantaneously into a loud, powerful masse of fellow Jews each individually welcoming in the Sabbath. 

Suddenly, the weight of the last week lifted off my shoulders as we stood amongst this vibrant congregation and sang at the top of our lungs. Here was the amazing part - I stood there, in an unfamiliar Shule, thousands of kilometres from home in a foreign land surrounded by foreign people and foreign languages. And yet, as we all filed in to the house of worship to pray, the walls reverberated with the same tunes I had been singing my entire life. It didn't matter who we were, where we were from or what language we spoke, there was one thing that connected us all, Judaism.

It was a truly powerful moment on the trip, that sudden realisation that my Judaism was not just something that defined where I went to school or what I ate or how I acted - no - my Judaism was a single thread in the incredible tapestry that is this religion. We have seen dark, destructive times, never to fade from our memories, yet here we are now: strong, proud - living. And that right there is when I truly realised what March of the Living was about - but more so than that - how proud I was to be who I was.  
Jew. Juif. Jude. We are all the same.


Ella Michael - 2015

 
MY GRANDFATHERS TESTIMONY
 
My grandfather’s experience of the Holocaust, like many others, was traumatizing. He never spoke of it to anyone, especially not to his family, in an attempt to shelter them from the horrific truths of his experience of the war. Despite the family’s concern for and interest in his experiences, my grandfather, Papa, had shut away all of his darkest memories, so much so that he actually could not remember many specific details. Danny Klein, a favourite daughter of friends of Papa, was conducting interviews of Holocaust survivors for Stephen Spielberg’s Shoah Testimony project. She begged Papa to participate and, after much persuasion, he gave in and told as much of his story as he could remember. Danny is the only person ever to have interviewed my grandfather on this horrific period of his life. I am so grateful to her for persuading him to participate. Continuing his mission to protect his family, my Papa never let any of them watch that recording and to date, no one but my mother and I have.   My Papa died 8 years ago and when I decided to participate in March of the Living I decided to watch his video testimony and write and deliver one for him. The participants of March of the Living, Danny Klein, and myself are currently the only people to have heard my grandfather’s story. I felt a great privilege to be able to tell his story to my fellow participants while in Auschwitz, the setting of most of his horrible experiences.
 
Sharing my Papa’s story was a very emotionally difficult thing for me to do. His stories and comments on his experiences became so real and horrific for me being in the very location of his ordeal. Although at the time it was difficult for me to read the testimony out loud, it became a critical moment in my March of the Living experience as it changed my entire outlook on the Holocaust. Before sharing his story, I viewed the Holocaust and Hitler as evil, I was very angry and, in a way I found it hard to connect with and believe that the events could really have occurred. After delivering Papa’s testimony, not only did the events become so much more real and truthful, but also my outlook on the Holocaust had shifted completely. I now see it as an event in history that the Jewish people have been able to overcome. I am much more proud to be Jewish and honoured to be a part of a community that was able to survive and overcome a person like Hitler.

Gisela German - 2015

 
 
Today was a day I don’t believe I can ever forget, however I find hard writing about it. Today is Yom Hashoah, April 16th 2015, the day we embarked on the signature experience of March of the Living.
The bus ride to Auschwitz 1 was terrifying in its own right. With only metres of arriving, I could only see large bands of trees, one after another, each staring back at me with all their knowledge and I couldn’t help but wonder what they had been doing 70 years ago.
 
We all knew we entered as free men and women and not as prisoners. We walked into the camp together and made our way into the position assigned to our country. In rows of 7 we stood and awaited the beginning of the March. In my row, stood six of what I would call the best of friends. These were people I hadn’t known for long and some I only met at the beginning of the trip but at that moment we all gave each other strength, linked arms and formed a straight line at the front of the Australian crowd.
 
I remember the familiar sound of the shofar signalling that it was our time to leave. Arm in arm and Israeli flags tied to our backs, we made our way out of the camp marching to Aushwitz-Birkenau. I remember looking back, only to see a swarm of thousand of blue jackets walking behind me, but even more fulfilling, looking back at my entire Australian group of people reminding me of how lucky I am to be here with people I wouldn’t think I’d ever call family before. Out of respect, we walked through the gates of Auschwitz 1 with our heads bowed, but in truth, my head had never felt higher.
 
I remember thinking about those who had walked this path before us and about why we were doing this; I was filled with immense pride. The Jewish people went through the darkest period of world history, and yet we were still here, I was still here, 2 generations after.
 
The mood suddenly changed when I was finally met by the huge iconic guard tower that stood in front of Birkenau. I placed my plaque in the ground among with the hundred more placed in the train tracks. The ceremony at Birkenau was incredible, the fact that we, 10,000 Jews were singing Hatikva and saying the mourner’s Kaddish in a place where any sort of expression of Judaism was previously prohibited.
Birkenau itself was a very surreal place for me. It was huge, barrack after another and a horrible site. Trying my hardest to find the ends of the camp was impossible. I was replaced with emptiness; my pride had diminished and was accompanied with heavy tears.
 
Weighing on everyone’s emotions of what I believe was enormity of our shared history, our pride, fear, anger and hope. Here I was, living and a part of the surviving thriving Jews, united in telling the world that we are here 70 years later, making it our responsibility to remember.
 
To be a small part of this filled me with so much passion, but there were 6 millions souls who walked with me every step of the way. I was marching for those who couldn’t. To march with tens of thousand of Jews, young and old, I honestly think nothing could compare to what this day meant to me
Today was a confusing paradox that I would live all over again.

Manon Lapidge - 2015

  
Another part of March of the Living that was special to so many of us was the testimonies. The testimonies gave us the chance to read our families’ stories for those who didn’t have the chance to return. I think for all of us it provided a much more personal connection to the places that previously seemed so foreign.  For me, I read my grandfather’s testimony, as well as grandmother’s testimony in Majdanek. This is where her father was murdered, who she never had the chance to meet. This meant so much to her, and I quote her “I’m glad someone was able to walk out of there”. Many of us read these testimonies in various sites where our families unfortunately perished, or suffered.


Julie Epshteyn - 2015

 
March of the Living - What an incredible program full of emotion, love, friendship and connection. A trip like no other that connects you to such a deep and emotional history. Each day on the program opened my eyes to a world of remembrance and memories. March of the Living allows the individual to see incredible sites, meet the most interesting people who were affected by the Holocaust and follow through their footsteps. It is a unique experience where you see photographs, videos and sites that you would never get another chance to see. 
 
When I arrived in Poland and saw the death camps such as Auschwitz Birkenau, Majdanek and Treblinka I left problems that once seemed significant in Australia and became fully immersed in the experience. Walking with 10,000 proud Jews from all over the world by my side through Auschwitz gave me an indescribable sense of pride that I will never forget the feeling of until this day. This program that I have gone through both emotionally and physically has changed who I am as a person to this day and will stay with me for as long as I live.
 

Jordana Levin - 2015

 

On this particular March of the Living, we had the most amazing group. From the beginning of our MOTL experience, until this very moment, we have had an incredible connection and have all gotten along so well. This is all because everyone in the group was so welcoming and thoughtful towards each other, therefore making everyone in the group feel comfortable to let out their feelings during the experience that we had before the trip, during the trip and after the trip. Everyone in the group was respected by each and every one of us in the group. There were many times during the trip that were quite tough for us to take in, but because of our special and unique group, everyone felt the support that they needed to be able to continue on with the most incredible trip of our lives. It was so important that each and every one of us felt supported and comfortable to share how we felt during the trip and that’s exactly how we felt. Our MOTL experience wouldn’t have been the same if one person from the group didn’t come. I think that we are all very thankful that we felt so relaxed, safe and comfortable to share our experiences and how we felt at certain moments during the trip. There are no words that can describe how amazing, incredible and outstanding our MOTL 2015 group is, but there is a special feeling and connection inside us all that can define this feeling.


Sophie Emder -
2015

 
How can one compare Poland and Israel? They are two vastly dissimilar countries with profoundly different histories. I am unable to justify which country I ‘enjoyed’ to a greater extent; I have no answer for that. The Polish countryside mesmorised my gaze, whilst the Israeli desert was a magnificent milieu that left me in awe of the country that I was standing in at that very moment in time. Both countries were exceptional in their own regard, although the relatively recent past of Poland unavoidable leaves a grey tint on the modern nation that we see today. I refuse to let the past shape how I view a nation. Whilst it is imperative that we acknowledge the past and pledge that this will and cannot happen again, this is no reason to perceive Poland through the perspective of the past. Poland offered heartache and sorrow, elation and joy. What once was a persecuted nation-state is now home to a growing population of Jewish folk. Whilst anti-Semitism is still rife in certain areas, this is no reason not to focus on a future of complete inclusion and integration of all.
 
For me, Israel represents the outcome of misfortune. One cannot help but feel wholly accepted in the ‘Holy Land.’ Whilst Israel is by no means faultless, it is indeed a land of wonder, spirituality, and a sense of nationalism that I have not witnessed elsewhere. The charity work in Israel is inspiring to witness, and this is in itself the mark of an altruistic nation with aims of bettering the lives of others.
 
Poland and Israel need no comparison, as what good comes from judging a nation based on its differences? Poland and Israel were both profound and distinctive, and this is what I came to appreciate when I arrived back in Australia.

Dylan Chilchik - 2015

 
There's a billion and one things I could say about my March of the living experience and it still wouldn't do it any justice. However there was one specific moment that really changed my entire journey from the beginning.
 
Treblinka camp was our first death camp visit and it was very unique as there's nothing really left there. I hadn't been over emotional on the trip so far as it was still early and when we were told there were no remains at Treblinka I didn't expect a rush of emotions to occur for me there.
 
We started walking through the area of where the camp was after a short briefing and it felt very empty and quiet. Suddenly you reach the clearing of an open small field with hundreds and hundreds of stones planted in the ground in front of you. Each one represents a place from which people were taken and brought to this camp. That's when it all hit me. I felt an overwhelming feeling start to rise and couldn't fully understand what I was seeing and what I was feeling. I couldn't comprehend how each stone only represented one place from which hundreds of people came from to their deaths in the same place I was standing on that day. I started to cry, and I still couldn't understand as to why I felt so moved by a place where there was no physical proof left of what had happened there. I felt completely alone and at the same time claustrophobic from the number of stones.

At this point I had frozen where I was standing just trying to internalize everything that was around me. This is when I felt an arm come around me and I looked to my right and it was Richard Haber, our March of the Living survivor. He came up to me and hugged me, and then he told me something I'll never forget. He said, "Look at me, I'm here, my daughter’s here, and my granddaughter’s here, this is how you know we won." It was the start of a very special experience for me and the connection I had to Richard as well as the first hand memories he shared with all of us really changed my life forever. I'll never forget that day and that moment and I don't believe my trip would've been the same without it.
 
March of the Living is like no other program for this specific reason, as we are some of the only people who will ever have gotten to experience these places with a survivor of the Holocaust, and a truly special one at that.
 
I believe everyone should have this experience and see with their own eyes the horror of our past, not just Jews, as this was a crime against humanity. It puts everything into perspective, and allows you to truly grasp the important things in our lives.

Oscar Moses - 2015

 
March of The Living was a very important experience for me; in hindsight I could say that it may be the high point of my teenage years. It definitely made me view my heritage in a different way and was most importantly my first ever experience of Israel. Up until the trip I felt that the country had been constantly pushed towards me in an attempt to make me love it or become a Zionist with out even having been there which has led me to build up some resent for the idea of Zionism. 

Despite this the second we flew over Israel and I looked out of the window I felt an amazing connection to the country, a much greater connection than the one I have with Australia. On the second day we went to a school called Neve Michael, I didn’t know what to think before I walked in but I knew that it was a school for children coming from disadvantaged homes or traumatic situations. We were spoken to by one of the women in charge of Neve Michael and we then went to watch some of their classes. Many of the children seemed somewhat ordinary, innocent and completely oblivious to anything in the world, apart from a few kids, which is exactly how I believe kids should be at such a young age, some being younger than just 7 years old. Neve Michael is a safe haven for hundreds of children coming from broken families due to drugs, violence, etc. and it helps remove these kids from a dangerous future. 

The trip changed me in a lot of ways and it showed me many aspects of Israel and Jewish history that I couldn’t have experienced in a better way. This day specifically gave me great insight into the issues that many citizens of Israel face and the importance of protecting youth.

Noah Abilafia - 2015

 
Recently I embarked on the journey that is March of the Living 2015. Admittedly, prior to this trip I was extremely anxious. Not anxious about leaving home, not anxious about travelling but rather anxious about the roller coaster of emotions I was about to experience. I left Australia with a pre-emptive idea of what I was going to feel. Sad in one place, emotionless in another. Yet nothing could prepare me for how wrong my pre conceived ideas where. I reflect upon my most memorable moment  of the trip through a diary entry that I had written just after leaving the infamous Treblinka death camp. “Today we journeyed to Treblinka, never would I have imaged the emotions that overtook my body. Sheer incomprehensible sadness engulfed my thoughts as the dispensability of human life and the disregard for any form of humanity became abundantly clear, as the lush green landscape was marred by an overwhelming sense of death and eeriness. The average life span of 45 minutes at Treblinka was a shorter time span that what we had been there for and the 900,000 innocent lives lost devastated me. As soon as we walked into the camp I felt this overriding sense of devastation as I burst into tears.” Whilst at Treblinka I have never felt such a tsunami of emotion. Impossible to describe, yet it taught me a valuable lesson. Throughout March of the Living we were taught the phrase ‘never again’, we were taught what it meant to resist, we taught what it meant to be Jewish,  we were taught what it meant to be courageous, what it meant to survive, what it meant to memorialise and at Treblinka I saw these lessons come to life. It dawned on me the significance of the Holocaust and that day at Treblinka still sticks with me as a constant reminder for how lucky we are to still be here. Yet despite the emotional wave, that often left me upset I remember March Of the Living for the many joyous occasions we shared. Re-connecting with old friends, and establishing new connections are some of the most important things I took from the trip. A Friday night Shabbat in Poland - an unparalleled experience. Climbing Masada, the constant singing, the constant eating and the constant presence of genuine friendship amongst our group made the trip a truly unique experience. I will never forget going on March of the Living 2015 and will be forever grateful for receiving such an opportunity that has truly changed the way I approach the world and situations in life. It has taught me so many invaluable lessons and I will forever remember the feeling, the thoughts and what I saw over those fabulous two and a half weeks :)

Taryn Langman - 2015

 
This artwork represents all the victims and survivors of Mila 18. One eye conveys the powerful and strong people who would not give up on their future and pride. The other eye gauged and empty is a remembrance of the one's who perished behind the wall who were unable to die in peace. Their memories are all with us today. They many not be here with us today but their being and souls are forever in our heart.

 
Ben Levy - 2015

One of the highlights of March Of The Living for me was the time we spent in the desert in Israel, especially Masada. We woke up really early and climbed to the top before sunrise. After enjoying the view and taking lots of photos we spent some time walking around the amazing historical site and it was a great feeling saying prayers in a two thousand year old synagogue. One of the last things we did was receive letters from our families, which really rounded the trip off for me. Reading beautiful words from my parents and grandma really made me appreciate how lucky we are to live privileged lives in the times we do because so many Jews during the holocaust weren’t able to. Overall it was a really humbling and beautiful experience, both physically and emotionally.

Etana Mann - 2015

 
The ceremonies were an important part to Poland and allowed every individual on the trip to connect with each place we went to. Every group thought of a different way to remember all the lives that were lost. Whether it was a piece of writing, a song, a poem, an art work, we as March of The Living 15' participants created a form of remembrance. Although the ceremonies were done at camps, places where horrific acts were committed, a sense of peace and happiness was found. Even for someone who didn't have a member of family affected by the holocaust, the ceremony gave them the opportunity to connect deeply, emotionally and spiritually.


Georgia Slender - 2015

 
On March of the Living we are lucky enough to experience Shabbat in Israel and Poland. Having Shabbat in Poland was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. We went to one of the remaining shuls in Krakow on Friday night and it was full of young, Jewish March of the Living participants! There was the most incredible atmosphere. We danced, we sang and we walked through the streets laughing and having the best time ever, without the need for phones or anything. On Saturday in Poland we walked to shul again and had the privilege of bar mitzvah-ing our survivor, Richard Haber. After this we went to a lunch with many of the other March of the Living delegations. Somehow the Australian delegation got the New York delegation into participating in our ruach and we were all chanting and singing together, it was so much fun. We walked outside after our Shabbat lunch and it was snowing! It was so incredible to be in this old square, in the Jewish section of Krakow with our survivor who had just been bar mitzvah-ed and the other March of the Living delegations. Shabbat in Poland was one of the most incredible experiences of the trip and I am going to remember it forever.


Georgia Lehrer - 2015

 
At the beginning of term two, I participated in the unique program March of the Living (MOTL), with 31 other participants from Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. This encompassed one week in Poland and one week in Israel. The program was truly unlike any other experience I have ever embarked on, allowing participants to bond and form relationships with one another in an unimaginable way.
 
During the Poland part of the program, all participants connect with the unfathomable and confronting period of history, the Holocaust, in an educational and positive manner. This was through the visitations of numerous camps and historical sights, which we visited everyday in Poland. As well as the camps we visited, the educator, madrichim (youth leaders) and survivor (of the Holocaust), all brought such knowledge and depth to the program, making it even more special.
 
One of the most memorable moments on the trip was Yom HaShoah. This was where my group as well as over 10,000 other proud Jews around the world (from USA, Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Sweden, Israel etc) all gathered at Auschwitz Concentration Camp and marched together to Birkenau Concentration Camp. This was the exact same root thousands endured over 70 years ago, called The Long March. This was one of the most special and unforgettable moments of the program, which I will never forget and will always cherish.
 
The emotional week of Poland, combined with the fun part of Israel truly tied the program together in a special and extraordinary way. March of the Living has changed who I am as a person positively, and will stay with me forever. 


Mason Kemeny - 2015

 
If I were to write about my entire March of the Living experience, it would end up being just a few pages longer than all three of The Lord of the Rings books. March of the Living was THE best experience I have ever had, and I’m pretty sure that nothing else will be able to compare. Out of all of the places we visited, all of the songs we sang, all of the things we discussed, the thing that made my MOTL experience so special was the people that I got to share it with.
There I was, travelling across the earth with the funniest, most   supportive, kindhearted group of strangers one could only ever dream of meeting.

Jamie Mohay - 2015

 
MOTL Reflection
 
It’s nearly been 4 months since the March of the Living trip, and I still reflect back on the time I had each and every day. There are so many aspects of my life that make me think back to the experience and what I learnt about myself and what happened during WW2 and the years following. It’s so hard to pinpoint one particular moment or day that stood out as the “life changing” one however, this picture, even though it means nothing to most, means a lot and brings back a lot of memories and feelings of the trip.
 
Our amazing photographer, Manny, took this photo in Majdanek. Majdanek is a concentration camp and was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip and spoke to me the most. Although meaningless to most, this picture speaks a thousand words in my head. This picture, in fact, is of a gas chamber, however, it’s not all I think about when looking at this photo.

 
The first thing that stands out in my mind when I think about Majdanek is the thousands of shoes that we saw. These shoes brought so much emotion and it’s amazing how these shoes represented the thousands of innocent people who perished in this camp.

Another memorable experience in Majdanek was my groups’ ceremony. Ceremonies and Testimonies are a major part of the March of the Living experience and the trip wouldn’t be the same without them. After an emotional time walking through the camp, I was extremely nervous to participate in the ceremony. However, it went as well as I think it could have and everyone was very engaged and interested in all we had to say. We concluded the ceremony with Manon’s testimony, which was an amazing story of her grandma and then by singing as a group in a circle. There were multiple times during the trip where we all sang together, and words cannot describe how proud I felt to be Jewish at every single one of these occasions.
 
Not only when I think about Majdanek do I think about the emotional side of things, I also think about the bus ride on the way to the camp and back. Every single bus ride on March of the Living was one to remember. The energy and the connections were truly amazing. We were always singing and having the best time. It was also amazing to see the transition from the camps to the bus rides after and how although we had just witnessed such horror, we still managed to realize how lucky we were to be here and that was something to celebrate.


Omri Goldberg - 2015

 
Everything happens for a reason.
The March in Poland is one of my most memorable experiences on the program. It was the traditional march from Birkenau I to Birkenau II and I was sent to the hospital just as the March was commencing.
I sat in the hospital for about 2 hours feeling extremely frustrated by the fact that I was missing the March of “March of the Living”. My mother was with me throughout this whole mess.
Eventually I felt better by the end of the 2 hours and the terrifying ambulance journey to the hospital. Even though the doctor asked us to stay, we were persistent and we left.  
My mother and I caught a dodgy cab back to Birkenau I. This moment was very special to us as it was just my Mother and I, doing the March alone. The streets were empty and we were in awe thinking to ourselves that, I was sent to the hospital just so we could do the March us two, alone.
After walking for 30 minutes, we arrived at Birkenau II. We were amazed as to just how big it is. It is enormous.
As we walked through the gates we heard, “The ceremony is about to commence”. We looked at each other and we just smiled, crying in each other¹s arms.
Everything happens for a reason. 

Ryan Sank - 2015

 
From my Journal……
 
After Lublin we began our travels into one of the most daunting experiences I will ever face in my entire life -‘Majdanek’. This camp was the home to thousands of relentless Jews and other groups of discriminated individuals. As we turned the corner from the roundabout in the heart of the Polish town Lublin something caught my eye in a flash…. It was something that I never apprehended to see so central in town. It was the camp ‘Majdanek’. It actually shocked me and the family surrounding me of how close this camp is to the town and residential areas. People drive and walk past this land of devastation and huge levels of loss everyday. Imagine that…. Imagine walking past this land of discrimination and haplessness on a day-to-day basis or even living within a small radius of this so-called camp. This was not a camp it was a hell-hold for innocent humans who were just trying to live their lives like any other human and help the economy.
 
As the family descended from the big stairs where the Russian monument stood I stared over at the size of this camp. It was enormous but I could see the end. For Jews living in this camp it must have been hard for them to see the outside but are helpless to reach it. The pain they must have attained on a day-to-day basis by seeing so-called normal people living their lives normally, minding their own business whilst this horrific act of genocide took place right under their noses.
 
Where do I start??
 
The first emotional wave hit as we entered the disinfection room just before these powerless souls were taken from this earth. Seeing the erosion the disinfectant had caused blew my mind with thoughts of disgust and sorrow as these poor souls were stripped naked and forced into this tight room where their fate was close. The next room was something that my entire body will never ever feel again and that was experiencing the killing machine for the Germans, the gas chamber. As soon as my body entered this space of loss, this wave of emotion hit like a ton of bricks. Questions began to race through my mind - “Why us?” “How could they” - were just a few that raced through my head in that short span of time. Looking out into this small cramped, dark, cold room that had watched and felt this amount of destruction all because of one’s religion and other specific belief or disability that this disgusting powerful human disliked. There was the tiny room next to the chamber of loss where the filthy pigs would hide and just watch these innocent humans scream and cry to their deaths.
 
Walking out of that room was like breathing oxygen for the first time. In there you just forget to breathe with the amount of emotions you experience and thoughts/questions that race through one’s head.  
 
I sat down and stared through the barbed wire into so-called ‘freedom’ back then. I began to think what these beautiful souls must have felt everyday staring out into the town knowing that people know what is happening but are not rising against the pigs that are the Nazis. The houses right next to the camp were the original houses back at the time this camp was functioning. How can the people who lived in the houses look at this camp and not feel any remorse, guilt or the need to stand up? This question kept playing on my mind whilst I sat there with my emotions flying around like tiny atoms. As soon as I stood up and turned around there was our survivor Richard who welcomed me with open arms for comfort. This was one of the best moments I had on the trip. I felt loved and proud to be a Jew hugging this man who had overcome this horrible spell in history and being able to comfort people around him who are feeling the pain and sadness every Jew must have felt back then. His wise words will stick with me forever “It is fine to express these emotions, I know it is hard”. His words reminded me of what Kim says before we enter any camp, “Remember, we are not walking into it but through it”. With the comfort and these words it allowed me to realise that we are walking through it as proud Jews who have the responsibility to never let this happen again, not only to Jews but also to other religions and groups of individuals.
 
I decided to walk off afterwards and go sit on one of the pot holes situated near one of the watch towers and entrance to the middle of the camp. I glared out to the rest of the camp and just pictured what it looked like back then, but I soon realised I can’t because I can never picture what horrific actions took place here and how these innocent souls must have felt on a day-to-day basis. Out of the corner of my eye I picked up an acorn shell and decided to place it above the ground symbolising that the Jews have risen and have beaten this act of discrimination and will continue to live on for eternity.