March of the Living
Written by: Vanessa Farkas (’17)
On a cold April day, I stepped off a bus onto the snow-covered ground of Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Oswiecim, Poland. I looked around in absolute awe, knowing that after years of learning about the Holocaust, I was finally standing in Auschwitz. Furthermore, I was sharing the experience with 10,000 other Jewish people from around the world. From Australia to Bulgaria, from Canada to Argentina, we stood together. We gathered behind the arch “Arbeit Macht Frei,” the same arch that hundreds of thousands of Jews were once locked behind.
The march began. Before me was a sea of blue coats. We walked for the children that were selected to go into the gas chambers and the men and women who would never be able to see their grandchildren grow older. For two and a half miles, we marched from Auschwitz to Birkenau, in honor of the millions of Jews who were confined into ghettos, forced into cattle cars, and imprisoned in the concentration camps.
On this walk, I watched thousands of other Jewish people march for the same purpose. As we entered into Birkenau, I thought of those who had once walked on the same ground as myself. Upon our arrival, ten thousand people gathered at the back of the camp, where a ceremony took place honoring the six million people who perished in the Holocaust. I immediately thought of my grandma, who was lucky enough to survive the war. She is one of the few who is able to share her story and she continues to do so today.
This experience of touring Auschwitz and Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek, as well as listening to the stories of those who personally witnessed the Holocaust, solidified my faith in the Jewish people. While I have continued to learn about the Holocaust since the March of the Living, there is no textbook, no picture and no movie that will ever teach me more than this trip. The March of the Living was perhaps the most impactful experience of my life to date.