The March of the Living itself, a 3-kilometre walk from Auschwitz 1 to Birkenau, is a tribute to all victims of the Holocaust, their memories and their legacies. The March is designed to contrast with the death marches, which began towards the end of World War II and continued virtually up until the Third Reich’s last days.
The Nazis forced approximately 750,000 prisoners, almost half of whom were Jewish, on to the death marches. The March of the Living serves as a hopeful counterpoint to the experience of hundreds of thousands of Jews and others who were forced by the Nazis to cross vast expanses of European terrain under the harshest of conditions, and where many of them perished.
The March of the Living is joined each year by thousands of Jewish teens, adults and survivors from around the world along with many other people from diverse faiths and backgrounds, including the Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish traditions. Students whose communities have experienced historic persecutions also participate, such as survivors of the Rwandan genocide, First Nation students and African Americans.
After spending a week in Poland visiting sites of Nazi Germany’s persecution and former sites of Jewish life and culture, participants travel to Israel the following week to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day.
A key element of the program is the participation of Holocaust survivors who share the memory of their wartime experiences with the participants in the very places where they unfolded. There is a greater urgency to encourage larger numbers of participants to take part in the program in the coming years, while the survivors are still well enough to participate in this challenging trip.
March of the Living focuses not only on the Holocaust itself but also includes other facets in the Poland portion of the trip. These elements include: learning about life before the war, establishing a dialogue with Polish students, and meeting with Polish Righteous Among The Nations.
According to objective third-party studies, the long-term effect of the program on March of the Living alumni has been significant in terms of its impact on both Jewish and universal values. Participants return with a greater commitment to Israel, to remembering the Holocaust, to strengthening their Jewish identity and practice, and to becoming involved in their local Jewish communities. March of the Living alumni has also made important social contributions to the community at large, such as assisting the homeless, campaigning against the genocides in Darfur and Sudan, volunteering at home and abroad in various worthy humanitarian efforts, and working diligently to combat prejudice and hatred of every kind.
Since the participation of the first Australian delegation to March of the Living, in 2001, over 1500 Year 11 Students, 500 Adults / Young Adults and 200 Staff (Survivors, Educators, Madrichim and other support personnel) have participated in this life changing experience – “A Journey For A Lifetime”.
March of the Living Australia prides itself as a values-based community-oriented NFP organisation that aligns itself with best practice regarding Child Protection, Gender Equality and other standards of ethical, moral, social and behavioural integrity.