BRIDGES FOR PEACE PRESS RELEASE - MAY 2005
An estimated 20,000 people participated in the annual March of the Living event in Poland this week, making this year's march
the largest to date. Opening ceremonies for the Holocaust Remembrance Day pilgrimage were held on the night of May 4, followed
by the three-kilometer (two-mile) march itself, from Auschwitz to Birkenau on May 5.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon joined the March of the Living on May 5. Senior Polish officials accompanied Sharon, along
with Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.
Bridges for Peace organized an international team of 48 Christians to march with the Jewish people. The team was led
by Rebecca Brimmer, the Bridges for Peace Chief Operations Director. BFP reps and supporters from the United States, England,
South Africa, Canada, Japan, Australia, and Israel were present by invitation of the organizers.
Nobel prizewinning author and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel addressed the gathering.
In addition to perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust, the March of the Living has had a profound effect on its participants'
connection to their Jewish identity. Funded by numerous Jewish organizations and Israeli agencies, the event has continually
grown since its beginning in 1988.
This year, participation was more than twice that of last year's event. In addition to Holocaust survivors and Jewish
high school and college students, Jewish adults up to age 45-and even non-Jewish teachers and university students-from Europe
and Asia made the trip as well. A Birthright Israel group was also among those taking part in the March of the Living.
(Compiled by Ron Ross [BFP] from an article by Sam Ser, Jerusalem Post, May 4, 2005)
How awesome is the Lord who brings victory out of disaster! Praise Him for the miraculous, prophecy-fulfilling events
of recent years. Praise Him for the establishment of the State of Israel. Praise Him for the mighty events still to come.
Thank the Lord that He is our hope and the hope of the Jewish people.
"O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption" (Psalm
HaARETZ.com Fri., May 06, 2005 Nisan 27, 5765
PM at Auschwitz: Jews can rely only on themselves
By Aluf Benn
AUSCHWITZ - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who flew to Poland yesterday to take part in the March of Life at Auschwitz on Holocaust
Memorial Day, said that Jews could only rely on themselves.
"With all the desire to advance the peace process, we must always stand on guard and rely only on ourselves. Jews
can rely only on themselves," Sharon said.
Sharon blasted the use by those who object to the Gaza disengagement plan of Holocaust symbols. "Those who make that
comparison are making a grave mistake. The situation is not similar. Today we are a state that makes its own decisions and
we are not coerced, as we were in the past to do the most terrible things," Sharon said.
The ceremony opened with Sharon's speech, which focused on the need of the grandchildren's generation to bequeath the
lesson of the Holocaust and its memories to the future generations "and make clear the importance of the existence of
the Jewish State."
He repeated how the world kept silent, "how so many died because they couldn't reach their homeland, because they
fell victim to the White Paper policy, the policy of surrendering to the Arab pressure. I am sure that all my colleagues,
the leaders of the states of the world, remember how the world stood by in silence. Don't let them forget. Remember the silence
of the world."
Sharon's bodyguards decided to rely only on themselves in the complex mission of guarding the prime minister at a large
public event in Poland. They canceled his scheduled appearance at an event commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto rebels and flew
Sharon's armored official vehicle to Auschwitz from Israel.
Sharon brought with him some 30 Holocaust survivors with their grandchildren, now serving in the Israel Defense Forces,
to enhance the connection between the Holocaust and Israel's resurrection.
"Once again the Holocaust survivors stand among us on this damned earth today, again surrounded by wearers of uniform.
But this time these are not SS soldiers, Germans drenched with murder-lust, but the grandchildren of the survivors, soldiers
in the IDF, the army of the free sovereign Jewish State," Sharon said.
For most survivors this was the first post-war visit to the extermination camp, in which 1.1 million Jews were murdered
by the Nazis during World War II. Ze'ev Factor, chairman of the Holocaust Survivors' Welfare Fund, spoke of the day he arrived
with his mother and sister on the "transport" from the Lodz Ghetto. He described the last moments of their life
and said the spectacle of the women who were forced to undress minutes before they were murdered, thus losing their dignity,
the last thing they had left, follows him every day and every night for the past 61 years.
David Kelgman, who was brought to Auschwitz from nearby Katovitz, corrected the guide Yoel Rappel: "It wasn't smoke
that came out of those chimneys but a flame of fire six meters high."
"I have pictures," said Rappel, and Kelgman cut him short: "I was here. I saw it myself."
Sharon's first stop was Birkenau, the camp in which most of the Jews were murdered. This is where the main ceremony of
the March of Life took place. He was accompanied by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and author Eli Wiesel on a visit to a prisoner
bloc in the camp. Wiesel told him about the eight months he spent here. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany joined their
Wiesel told Sharon that despite the hard labor he and his cell mates rose an hour earlier every morning so that 100 prisoners
could share laying phylacteries they had bought for 10 slices of bread.
When Sharon reached the podium several Likud Central Committee members greeted him with cries of "Sharon, Sharon"
until others at the ceremony silenced them.
The ceremony opening was delayed by an exhaustive security check given the thousands of marchers were given a exhausting
security check and they then they had to wait for an hour due to the arrival of the Hungarian prime minister. They were from
the podium, outside the secured area.
Sharon ended his speech by speaking of "the blue-white flag that is blowing in the wind, with courage and pride.
This is the flag that was so necessary here 60 years ago."
The host, Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka, greeted the attendants with "Shalom to all" in Hebrew and said
his teenage daughter had invited her friends from West Europe to Poland and insisted on taking them to Auschwitz as well,
not only to the big cities. Belka said he was proud of her, and spoke of the importance of reconstructing the Jewish heritage
of Poland. His lesson from the Holocaust was that "the horrors should immunize us from hatred, xenophobia and racism."
JERUSALM POST By HERB KEINON
May. 5, 2005 19:18
"It's my birthday, May 5, 1945," said Yechiel Alecsander, looking well beyond 60 years old. "On that day,
I was liberated by the Americans."
Alecsander, 75, was one of 20 Holocaust survivors who Sharon chose to accompany him on his trip Thursday to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Nearly every one of the survivors was accompanied by a grandchild in IDF uniform.
Sharon, at a speech at Yad Vashem Wednesday night, ushering in Holocaust Remembrance Day, made sure everyone understood
the symbolism loud and clear.
Those in uniform at Auschwitz this time, Sharon said, will "not be enemy soldiers lusting to murder, but rather the
grandchildren of the survivors, who are currently IDF soldiers who serve as the protective shield of the Jewish state."
"It's an honor," Alecsander says of his being able to take his grandson Tomer to the death camps where he was
interned for six months in 1944, before setting out on two death marches. "It is an honor for me and an honor for him,"
he said on the airplane en-route.
Alecasander was one of 17,000 people who set out on foot for Mauthausen on April 26, 1945. Only 2,000 survived to greet
the liberating American army. From there, Alecsander made his way to Palestine, the Palmach, Moshav Nahalal, a career in education,
and participation in each of Israel's wars.
This trip is the Lodz born Alecsander's eleventh visit to Auschwitz since 1994 when he said something clicked and he began
talking about his Holocaust experiences.
"Up until then I was closed," he said, making a key turning motion with his hand near his mouth. "Now I
have no problem speaking," he said.
"My message is always the same-what happened, happened. Now we must look forward."
On the plane from Tel Aviv to Auschwitz, Alecsander bared his forearm to show the number branded there-B7910. He also
took out a replica of his ID card from Mauthausen.
"How much longer do I have?" he asks. "One year, two, maybe five and then I'll be gone."
Alecsander doesn't finish this thought, but gestures towards his grandson oblivious to the conversation, engrossed-instead-in
the music coming from his earphones.
But Alecsander's gesture seems clear. When he is gone, the tall, dark-haired lad with three stripes on his uniform shirtsleeve
and parachutes wings over his shirt pocket, will be his legacy.
The grandfather survived the death march, and by so doing he snatched the grandson from the Nazis' jaws as well.