Category : From the Desk of the National Director
By Eli Rubenstein
It was the 1990 March of the Living. Thousands of young people from around the world had gathered on Holocaust Remembrance Day in the ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau for our closing ceremony.
Elie Wiesel began to speak. The crowd hung on his every word. As he approached the end of his remarks, his voice filled with indignation, then despair:
“How can one not be concerned with anti-Semitism? We were convinced that anti-Semitism perished here. Anti-Semitism did not perish; its victims perished here.
“Children of the Jewish People, do you ever see what I see here? I see so many children and so many parents, and so many teachers and so many students. I see them. Forever will I see them. I see them walking in their nocturnal procession, wandering, crying, praying.
“Forever will I see the children who no longer have the strength to cry. Forever will I see the elderly who no longer have the strength to help them. Forever will I see the mothers and the fathers, the grandfathers and grandmothers, the little school children, their teachers, the righteous and the pious. From where do we take the tears to cry over them? Who has the strength to cry for them?
“Years and years ago, I saw… I cannot tell you what I saw. I am afraid. I am afraid that if I told you we would all break out in tears and we would not stop. I see a young girl…”
And then suddenly, Elie Wiesel shook his head and walked off the stage, unable to share his story. It was just too heartbreaking for him to continue.
By Nate Leipciger
On July 10, I walked with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau through the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau where, at age 15, I confronted death for the first but not for the last time.
It all started three days earlier when Eli Rubenstein, the Canadian director of the March of the Living, asked me if I would consider accompanying the prime minister to Poland. I was excited to go – this was a unique opportunity and privilege not afforded to many survivors of the Shoah.
Over the last 26 years I visited Poland, a free and democratic country many times. I visited the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau over 30 times on the March of the Living, and on many other occasions. However this was different: not only would I be there with my wife Bernice, my daughter Arla Litwin and my granddaughter Jennifer Green, but I would be there with the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of our beloved and wonderful Canada – a country where I established a new life, were I obtained an education and achieved a successful career, where my wife and I were blessed with a beautiful family of three daughters, three special son-in-laws and nine terrific and gifted grandchildren.
In 1935 Nazi Germany declared all German Jews as Untermentchen (less than human), removed their citizenship and abrogated their human rights. In 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland and did the same to the Polish Jews, including me. In 1942 at the Wannsee Conference, they condemned me to death for being born a Jew. In 1943, I was shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau destined to my death in a gas chamber.
Trudeau asked me how I managed to survive. I told him “my father snapped me from the jaws of death by his courageous intervention at the last moment at the risk of his own life.”
By Eli Rubenstein
For the last 30 years, I have been working closely with Holocaust survivors in Canada and around the world. In all that time, the one attribute found in an astonishing number of survivors that has impressed me most has been their ability to love – to rebuild, to reconcile, to carry on their lives in a fashion that belies the brutal experience of their youth.
Nowhere was this more evident than last year, when I attended the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The most extraordinary moment for me was when Roman Kent, a survivor of Auschwitz, spoke about his experience. When asked how much time he has spent in the camp, he said, “My answer is I do not know. What I do know is that a minute in Auschwitz was like an entire day, a day was like a year, and a month an eternity.”
He went on to say that “it is our mutual obligation, that of survivors and national leaders, to instill in the current and future generations the understanding of what happens when virulent prejudice and hatred are allowed to flourish. We must all teach our children tolerance and understanding at home and in school. For tolerance cannot be assumed… it must be taught. And we must make it clear that hate is never right and love is never wrong.”
After everything he’d gone through, his answer was still that “hate is never right and love is never wrong.”
Raoul Wallenberg rescued more Jews than any other single individual during the Holocaust. He vanished on January 17, 1945 after being apprehended by Soviet authorities. January 17th, 1945 marks the 70th anniversary of his tragic and never explained disappearance.
March of the Living, with the help of the Azrieli Foundation, produced a very moving short piece on his life and legacy, featuring Holocaust survivor Eva Meisels, human rights advocate Irwin Cotler & Joe Kertes, Second Generation Wallenberg survivor.
As we approach this tragic anniversary, in honor of his heroic legacy, please take a few moments to watch:
100,000 Souls: The Legacy of Raoul Wallenberg
Today, Friday, November 7th marks 70 years since the execution of the poet Hannah Senesh by the Nazis during WWII.
Senesh, a member of the British Army, was one of 37 Jews from Palestine to parachute into Yugoslavia during WWII to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews. Senesh was captured at the Hungarian border, imprisoned, tortured and ultimately executed on Nov. 7, 1944. During her time as a captured prisoner in her native Budapest, she refused to provide details of her mission. Senesh is regarded as one of the greatest heroines in Jewish history.
If you do nothing else today, please watch this moving 4 minute music video on the heroism and courage of Hannah Senesh. The video is a well known song written by Senesh – Eli, Eli – performed by acclaimed Canadian jazz vocalist and Juno-winner Sophie Milman.
Please share with as many people as possible…..