On occasion of the international Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoa), the “March of Remembrance” took place in over 40 US cities on April 6-7, 2013, with a total of more than 1,000 participants.
The message of the March of Remembrance is to honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants, to commemorate the genocide of six million Jews, and to set a clear mark for Israel and against modern anti-Semitism (www.marchofremembrance.org). It had come forth in 2007 from the “March of Life” movement that has organized memorial and reconciliation events with Jews and Christians of different denominations at sights of the Holocaust in Europe. In many cities, local newspapers (e.g. in Bloomington, Alabama) and TV stations (e.g. CNN iReport in Denver, Colorado) reported on the Marches of Remembrance.
Pastor Jobst Bittner, the initiator of the March of Life, was also invited to share the vision of his new book "Breaking the Veil of Silence" and the March of Remembrance on the Marcus and Joni Show on Daystar Television.
A survey, issued by Tel Aviv University, has shown just how important these Marches are these days. It says that in 2012, anti-Semitic violence increased about 30 percent globally. 120 participants who had gathered in Yaphank (Long Island, NY) for the March of Remembrance got some impression of that: When they were marching past a pub, two men, half-drunk, came out, raised their arms, and called out several times, “Heil Hitler.”
This year, the main Marches took place in Houston and Dallas (Texas). Jobst and Charlotte Bittner, the initiators of the March of Life movement, and a team of Germans also joined the March there. The series of events was launched in New York City on April 3.
April 3, 2013 – New York
The March of Remembrance organized a memorial event at the UN Church Center in New York on April 3. Apart from 60 representatives from Jewish congregations, there were also representatives of Messianic congregations and Christian churches present who, together with Holocaust survivors and the descendants of Nazi perpetrators, commemorated the victims and honored the survivors in order to set a clear mark for Israel and to declare, “Never again!”, lighting six candles and blowing the shofar. In an act of Tikkun, the victims and the descendants of the Nazi perpetrators shared their stories – restoration that brings healing for those who are still suffering today under the shadows of the past.
Elly Gross shared the upsetting story about how she lost her entire family in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Later, she built up a new existence in Romania together with her husband. Then, the Communists came and took away their house again. In the 1960s they finally immigrated to the US.
For the descendants of the Nazi perpetrators, Markus Demmer reported about his grandfather who had infamously been one of the most brutal policemen in the Polish ghettos, where he had abused, raped, and arbitrarily shot Jews and Poles. In a moving act, the descendants of the German perpetrators gave a rose to each one of the victims and their descendants. As a visible sign of restoration, the victims embraced them.
At the same time, the event was the first public release of the English edition of Jobst Bittner’s book, Breaking the Veil of Silence. At every March of Remembrance event, the descendants of survivors testified about how the Holocaust had put a veil of silence over their families as well. The March of Remembrance and the testimonies in the book had encouraged them to break the silence, though, and to receive healing from the traumas that the survivors are still suffering, even in the second and third generation.
April 6, 2013 – Houston
On Saturday, April 6, about 15 churches of different denominations worked together in order to organize March of Remembrance events in six locations around Houston. These locations placed a symbolic Star of David on the city. The prayer walks set a public mark against anti-Semitism and for Israel. At the memorial events, Jewish Holocaust survivors shared their stories and met with the descendants of the Nazi perpetrators from Germany, who broke the veil of silence and asked for forgiveness. Tears and hugs were the witnesses of reconciliation and healing of the hearts. Germans and Holocaust survivors lit the candles together and recited Kaddish. The mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, had written a proclamation that underlined the importance of the March of Remembrance. She wrote, “I hereby proclaim April 6-7, 2013, as Houston Holocaust March of Remembrance Day in Houston, Texas, in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and in honor of the survivors, as well as the rescuers and liberators, and further proclaim that we, as citizens of the City of Houston, should work to promote human dignity and confront hate whenever and wherever it occurs.”
In Kingwood (Northeast of Houston), about 400 participants joined the memorial event and the March. The grand-daughter of an SS soldier shared how her life had suffered under the shadow of her grandfather and asked the descendants of the victims for forgiveness, which was granted. After that, a message from the Consul General of Israel to the Southwest, Meir Shomo, was read. Furthermore, Jobst Bittner was honored for the “March of Life” movement.
40 people gathered for the memorial event in Missouri City (Southwest) in the patio of a Lutheran Church. Holocaust survivor Bill Orlin shared his moving story of how he had survived a death march in Poland by a miracle. He also said, “If the Christian churches had supported the Jews during the Nazi era, the Holocaust probably would not have happened. I want to thank the Christians who are supporting us today.”
In Spring (North), 80 Christians took part in the memorial event. Romanian Holocaust survivor Zoly Zamir brought along his daughter and grand-daughter; his great-granddaughter had prepared a video message. Four generations spoke publicly about the very personal consequences of the Holocaust. When the German delegation shared about their family stories and asked for forgiveness, Zoly Zamir and his family were deeply touched. At the end of the event he said that he had “felt at home.”
On Sunday, April 7, there was another event in downtown Houston. A German couple asked for forgiveness. A man whose family had to flee from Germany in the 1930s spontaneously took the microphone and proclaimed forgiveness in front of those present.
April 7, 2013 – Dallas
About 230 participants, especially from Messianic congregations, gathered in front of City Hall in downtown Dallas in order to start the prayer walk to Founders Plaza. Ted Pearce led through the memorial event with descendants of both Holocaust victims and Nazi perpetrators. A second-generation Holocaust survivor shared her moving story about how she found Jewish relatives who had settled in South America after the war. She also said, “I used to be afraid of the German language, but now, after listening to the message of reconciliation, it is music to my ears.” The grandson of an SS officer shared about the atrocities committed by his grandfather and asked for forgiveness. A Messianic rabbi, who is also the descendant of Holocaust survivors, proclaimed forgiveness and recited Kaddish together with the German delegation.
Canoga Park, CA
Colorado Springs, CO
Boca Raton, FL
Orange Park, FL
Terre Haute, IN
New Orleans, LA
China Grove / Landis, NC
Yaphank, Long Island, NY
Del Rio, TX
San Antonio, TX
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