Kurt Brown - Port Stephens



The holocaust. What does that mean to me? If you had of asked me before 2011 I would have said nothing because I knew very little about the Shoah until a secret was revealed to me and would change my life forever. I never knew much about my great grandmother growing up and never even thought of questioning the tattooed numbers on her arm. 

One day in primary school I was reading about the iconic voice of the holocaust Anne frank and saw a picture of holocaust survivors showing their tattoos. Then I realised what my grandmother was. Jewish. After a couple of months I worked up the courage to ask about what happened to her and she shocked me when she told me she had survived Auschwitz birkenau and Bergen Belsen. I felt as though she felt relieved to finally talk about her past. 

She died a year ago. After she died I felt an obligation which was to convert to Judaism and learn about my people and where my heritage lies. I soon learned about a program called march of the living which took Jewish youth to Poland and to Israel to visit the former extermination camps and then experience the miracle of yom ha'atzmut. 

I contacted Cedric geffin myself and explained my situation to him to which he replied "anyone who identifies as a Jew is more than welcome" he's an amazing man. I was terrified of the rest of my group as I felt like the elephant in the room and they wouldn't accept me since I was the only non Jew. But they did the exact opposite and every single student in my group accepted me as one of them and I'll always love them dearly. I promised myself that I needed to commemorate my family in Poland and if I couldn't handle it I never had to return to Poland. 

Auschwitz shook me to my core. This was my grandma and the nazis wanted to kill her for being born Jewish. I was asked by my amazing madrichim jarrod to share my grandmother’s testimony at the ruins of crematorium 3 in birkenau. I looked up halfway through speaking to see my entire group crying. As soon as I finished i felt as though my family had finally been remembered after 74 years. Walking through majdanek broke my heart. I hated it. I was walking out of what was once the gas chambers and said to my friend skyla Shultz (an American girl from Boca Raton, Florida) "I can't take any more of this! I just want to go home!" Then she replied with something I'll never forget. "But Kurt we are going home, we're going to Israel" 

Then I realised that across the Mediterranean Sea was a land that was yearning for me and thousands of others to return him to it. Coming to Israel from the march makes me realise there's an absolute necessity for Israel to exist. If Israel existed during WW2 the holocaust wouldn't have happened as millions of Jews would have been able to find refuge in their biblical homeland. Since I haven't converted yet but still consider myself Jewish I was really happy to arrive in Israel and I've been so inspired by the people. 

The march of the living is an amazing immersive program that I strongly urge everyone to do. Holocaust survivors are not going to be around forever. Who's going to tell their stories? We are. We must bear witness to the atrocities committed against the Jewish people in order to make sure they are never repeated again to any human being. The march has to be one of the most moving and important experiences anyone could have and so I'll always hold the memories and friends I made on it very dearly. 

I've been so inspired to educate more people about the holocaust in order to teach the lesson which it provides which is to never let hatred win and make sure no group of people ever have to go through that again so I'm hoping to one day work alongside the Sydney Jewish museum in educating schools. This march is the experience of a lifetime so I strongly urge everyone to do it as soon as you can.