We began our morning with a visit to the infamous concentration camp, Plascow. The tale of this camp is most accurately told through the movie, Schindler’s List. At the camp, we learned the history of the camp and explored the powerful, “Torn Heart Memorial”. We concluded our visit with some moving prayer songs tales of the atrocities perpetrated by the camp commandant, Ammon Goethe.

After we departed Plascow, we returned to Auschwitz for the annual March of the Living. This 2 mile walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau is all about connection and Jewish identity! 

To walk alongside teens, dignitaries, and adults from 50 countries, approximately 10,000 strong, it was truly a reaffirming and prideful moment for everyone. As the marchers entered through the famous arch in Birkenau, names were recited of children who perished during the Holocaust. Stirring and passionate words were given by Rabbi Meir Lau (former Chief Rabbi of Israel and survivor), and speeches from the presidents from Poland and Israel. There were stirring renditions of Jewish songs. The sight of everyone standing and reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish and then singing Hatikvah will surely be a memory that will live on in everyone.

After this powerful experience, our teens got some well-deserved time off to explore the city square of old Krakow. Finally, this amazing day concluded with a unique opportunity for our teens to meet and interact with their friends from BBYO Austria. 

View some quotes from teens on our trip below.
“One of the most overwhelming observations today is that there never seems to be enough rocks in Poland. Everywhere I have been from the synagogues in Krakow and Osweicim, to the fields of Plascow, to the squares of the ghetto and to the camps there have been rocks placed in the memory of the victims. I have placed a few myself at each of the sites we have visited and even though I only add to the piles, it feels like there aren’t enough to remember each lost soul the empty spaces were you know there should be active Jewish life are overwhelming.” ~ Gabrielle Bray

“One of the most overwhelming and powerful things that happened to me today was walking the March. At the end seeing everyone coming into Birkenau. It just had me thinking of all the Jews that walked the same path we did. Seeing the speaker wearing the striped pajamas just made it all real. Although it was a hard and powerful day, it ended well seeing Jewish boys singing their hearts out in the center of Poland. Jewish people still exist and will forever exist and I am so proud I could be part of showing that.” ~Chelsea Heinzmann 

“I have never been more proud to be Jewish in my life.”~ Lana Yevzlin 

“I thought it was really impactful when Hatikvah was being sung and everyone was walking out of the camp showing how many Jews there still are and how strong we remain.” ~Sadye Boshak

“They tried to destroy us and the remains of their actions still remain but look where we are now. 10,000 strong marched today and we will only continue to grow.” ~Rochelle Levitin 

“Today was the most empowering inspiring and meaningful day of my life. Today exceeded any of my expectations I have never felt prouder to be who I am as I witnessed strangers turn into friends and come together to show how strong we are.” ~Noa Katz 

“I thought today would be different, I thought there weren’t other people out there who cared enough to come out even if they aren’t Jewish and this would be a sad silent March. But I was taken by surprise when everyone was standing together, different ethnicities and different religions in complete support and encouragement of the entire Jewish community. I have never felt prouder to be a Jew.” ~ Shelby Funt 

“The trade-off from a feeling of overwhelming darkness in a bad sense in one’s bones to a feeling of overwhelming unity and pride was incredibly powerful.” ~Mike Stein

“The March was really empowering because we were able to stand with Jews from all around the world praying, talking, and thinking in a place where they tried obliterating us. Participating in the March felt like we were reclaiming a place full of so much hatred and cruelty and turning it into a place to celebrate our religions perseverance and strength. From such darkness, came such light.” ~Anna Jaffe 

“I did not feel extreme sadness or happiness but I felt a significant deeper connection to my Judaism and myself. It’s hard to explain, but it’s as if something in me was fulfilled with this deeper connection.” ~Anna Clymer

“I March for my family that never left Treblinka. I march for my Jewish brothers and sisters who souls were taken from this world. I March as a promise, a promise to honor their memories and carry on their stories that will never be forgotten. I March as a reminder that hate cannot conquer love. Evil will never win. I March as a message to the world that the Jewish people cannot be destroyed. I am a proud Jew. I will celebrate and love the religion my ancestors died to practice. I will bear witness, and I will promise to never forget.” ~Aliya Markowitz

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