“Marsz Zycia ku pojednaniu“ in Kielce

70 years after the infamous pogrom against Jewish Holocaust survivors in Kielce/Poland, on July 3rd 2016, a "March of Life for Reconciliation" took place with 400 participants from all over Poland. Among them were the Israeli ambassador Ana Azaria and numerous descendants of survivors of the pogrom, who came over from Israel.


On the eve of the March, the Holocaust scholar Professor Dr. Gideon Greif made a speech about the history of the Kielce pogrom. He elucidated on the 42 Jews who had just escaped the horror of the Holocaust, only to be brutally slain with stones thrown by a mob of citizens from Kielce; this mob was supported by the military and authorities. It was triggered by the rumor of a ritual murder of an eight-year-old boy. The latent anti-Semitism in the population was the basis for the violent eruption that followed.


Jobst Bittner, founder of the March of Life, warned at the launch event in the light of this terrible history not to remain silent in present times, when old anti-Semitic prejudices are revived again - as was shown by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who told the European Parliament about his suspicions that Israeli rabbis have been poisoning water delivered to the Arab population. Thus he evoked the medieval stereotype of the Jewish well poisoners - MEPs the European Parliament accepted the statement without hesitation and acknowledged the speech of Abbas with standing ovations.


The daughter of one survivor of the massacre of Kielce reported about the traumatic consequences of what happened to her own family after the Holocaust - her mother told her again and again: "My parents were lucky to have been killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz - this spared them experiencing the Kielce Pogrom." Edward Czwierz, organizer of the March and March of Life Coordinator in Poland, reacted to this very personal report and asked for forgiveness, as a citizen from Kielce and descendant of the generation which had committed the pogrom. In accordance with the Bible passage from Isaiah 60 verse 14, twelve Kielce citizens bowed before the Israeli delegation and handed them white roses. With this declaration they expressed that they want to take responsibility for Polish anti-Semitism in the past and that they will not remain silent regarding modern anti-Semitism.


The opening event was held at the premises of a free-church, "Wieczernik" church, in a former industrial complex - 70 years ago this was the Ludwikow Steel Factory, from which a mob of workers went to participate in the pogrom. Instead of a “death march“ this was the starting point for the March of Life. In the inner city, the participants joined the commemorative events hosted by the Jan-Karski-Society which took place at the Ghetto Memorial, on the historic site of the pogrom and at the Jewish cemetery.


The day ended with a “Festival of Life“ in the evening, a hopeful conclusion for the event. Jewish dance and music brought to expression that Jewish life is once again welcome in Kielce.

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