AUSCHWITZ, POLAND (CBS4) – Every year thousands of people from around the world travel to Poland with a purpose. It’s simple. To march for the living where thousands more marched to their deaths. The march takes place every year in Auschwitz, Poland on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Participants learn first hand the power of hate, from those who survived it. They also see first hand the strength it takes to live and teach the lessons of the Holocaust. CBS4 News reporter Ted Scouten and Photojournalist Rafael Murciano traveled there with three survivors from South Florida.
For survivor David Schaecter, the meaning of this day was clear. “The enomity of the holocaust in and of itself is a difficult thing to understand. A difficult thing to swallow.”
Schaecter, David Mermelstein and Joe Sachs each tell different stories of life during the holocaust and how they survived it. But all three are bound by one thing. They want to make sure the world, particularly the children of South Florida, never forget. And as Joe Sachs told us, it’s not about teaching hate. “Continue with the legacy. The legacy of telling the world what has gone. And that is not to instill hate. That’s to eradicate hate.
Participants young and old traveled from South Florida to Auschwitz for this day to bear witness. They toured barracks, gas chambers and crematoriums at Auschwitz One, Birkenau and Majdanek.
Seeing scratches on concrete walls inside gas chambers, and hearing of the deaths of mothers with their children, was overwhelming for March of the Living Participant Pam Wolofsky. “The scale of this is overwhelming to me. The scale of this extermination of our people. It’s just overwhelming . I don’t think you can be the same after you see this.”
She was one of several people overcome with emotion as they toured Majdanek. It’s the only death camp on this tour that is still intact nearly 70 yeas after it was liberated. It was just outside Majdanek that 18,000 Jews were killed in one day, in the largest single-day, single-location killing during the Holocaust.
That was November 3, 1943. Music was played throughout the camp to drown out the sounds of repeated gunfire.
Touring Majdanek was especially painful for Aventura resident Michael Marder. He was supposed to be sent to Majdanek, but as luck would have it, he never made it there. He’s the only member of his family and one of only eight kids from his camp to survive the Holocaust.
The terror of the holocaust was evident to his granddaughter Nicole. “When we went to Majdanek yesterday, he started shaking. I thought it was because he was cold. I asked him, ‘grandpa, are you cold?’ He responded to me no. That’s when I realized he was still traumatized and I broke down. I couldn’t fathom what he had gone through to be here today.”
Join CBS4 News for a special presentation: March of the Living, Return to Auschwitz Sunday, May 20th at 6:30 p.m.