"An Important Contribution to the Process of German-Polish Reconciliation.”

These were the words of Wlodzimiersz Karpinski, state secretary in the Polish Ministry of Administration talking about the March of Life in Poland.

With the reconciliation march from August 19 to 24, descendants of German Wehrmacht soldiers and members of the police force and SS set a mark against anti-Semitism and for Israel together with Polish descendants of the victims of the German war of annihilation. 270 guests from Germany, the United States and Israel walked the distance of 1400 miles through Poland together with numerous Polish participants. In Auschwitz, Kielce, Treblinka and many other places memorial events took place with a total of over 800 participants, among them the Knesset Deputy Speaker Lia Shemtov, the Israeli ambassador in Poland Zvi Rav-Ner, as well as many other representatives of the political sphere and public life in Poland. The March of L ife met with great interest in the international media.

Stirred up by the fanatic racial hatred of the Nazis, Poland had become the scene of unspeakable suffering during WWII.  Of the approximately 6 million Poles murdered during this time, 3 million were Jews.  Starting with Willi Brandt’s genuflexion, there have been steps and initiatives of reconciliation, but many of the old wounds are still not healed to this day.

Seventy years after the war, the March of Life connected six former death camps, forming a symbolic Star of David. Memorial services took place in Warsaw, Kielce, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Majdanek, Chelmno and Sobibor. Many places saw encounters of reconciliation with the descendants of the victims.  Survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants took the microphone at the memorial events. Among them was Ruth Sax, a survivor of the Schindler List, or Chaim Hartmann, son of the last survivor of the ghettos in Kielce. They shared the stories  of their  unbelievable suffering.

More than 50 participants of the German delegation were the descendants of Wehrmacht soldiers and members of the police or SS, who had been involved in the war of annihilation and the Holocaust in Poland. At the historic location of their ancestors‘ crimes, they asked for forgiveness . Many news channels and TV stations reported on Bärbel Pfeiffer, who testified about the truth about her grandfather, who had been involved in the construction of Auschwitz-Birkenau by installing the gas chambers and the electric fences.

The media carried the message of reconciliation through the March of all the way to China, Indonesia, Venezuela and Qatar and throughout the world. The public Polish TV stationTVP broadcast a detailed report. A TV crew of the Israeli Channel 10 accompanied the March of Life for a few days, resulting in a widely circulated 8 minute report broadcast at prime time.

Official representatives also welcomed the March of Life. The Mayor of Warsaw, Ms Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, received a delegation of the March in the City Hall and emphasized the significance of initiatives of reconciliation for the relationships between nations.

The Israeli ambassador commented the March of Life in his address as follows:  â€œThere are many marches in Poland, but this is something special. Germany should be proud of what you are doing. It is very significant!“

Currently plans are being made for furthers memorial events and reconciliation marches in the coming years in cooperation with Polish churches, congregations and international organizations. For the coming year,  a March of Life event is planned for April 19 to 21, on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

About the March of Life:

The March of Life in Poland is an initiative by Jobst and Charlotte Bittner and TOS Ministries from Tübingen. The initiative is supported by the Israeli Knesset, the Jewish community of Warsaw, Helping Hand Coalition, the Association of Ghetto and Holocaust Survivors, Veterans Union of World War II, Fighters Against Nazism, Association of Wounded Soldiers and Partisans who Fought the Nazis, Christen an der Seite Israels, European Coalition for Israel, as well as the Pentecostal Church of Poland, the Polish Baptist Union, the movement Poland for Jesus and Shalom Ministries Oscwiecim.

Similar marches of reconciliation have already taken place in more than 80 cities in 12 nations, among them Latvia, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Germany, as well as in numerous cities all across the United States and in Latin America. In the course of the reconciliation marches large event with public representatives have taken place with thousands of participants. In November 2011, the initiative of the March of Life was honored with an award by the Israeli  Knesset for its special ministry to Holocaust survivors.

More pictures from the March of Life: 

Go to the TOS Ministries Facebook Site  

Selection of Reports about the March of Life in the World Media:

Report on the News at Israeli Channel 10

Report on Polish Television TVP

Report on German newspaper Welt Online

Article in the Times of Israel

News in French Newspaper Le Figaro

Report in spanish Newspaper El Mundo

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