First Marches of Life in Switzerland

The very first Marches of Life in Switzerland took place on May 4th and May 5th, 2016 on the occasion of Yom HaShoah.

On May 4th, the first “March of Life for Israel,” as it is called in Switzerland, proceeded through St. Gallen. On the following day, a march took place in the border city of Riehen, Basel. All in all, a total of around 400 people took to the streets against forgetting and for Israel. At the end of 2015, Jobst Bittner had introduced the March of Life Movement to 40 leaders of various Christian Israel organizations and congregations, at a vision meeting in Switzerland.

Christoph Meister, who heads the Israel organizations) in Switzerland and who was one of the main organizers of the March in Riehen, was quoted in the “Riehener Zeitung” (Riehen Newspaper) saying, “It is not about copying the German example, as the situation in Switzerland was different. And yet, we must be aware that terrible things also happened here right at our doorstep.” That is especially true in Riehen, where many Jews, who attempted to flee from the Nazis in Germany into Switzerland, were arrested by the border police and sent back, which meant their certain death for most of them.

There is a memorial for these refugees in Riehen which also served as the official co-organizer of the March of Life. The opening ceremony took place at the memorial. The Evangelical Alliance in Basel also supported the invitation.

The regional rabbi of Baden, Moshe Flomenmann, described the commitment of Christians to the March of Life as a “sign of hope.” In memory of the victims of the Holocaust, he sang the Jewish Prayer El Male Rachamim at the event.

An eyewitness to the historic events and longtime president of the Swiss Jewish Refugee Aid, Myrthe Dreyfuss spoke about the difficult past in the Basel region. One of the worst things had been the implementation of the “Jewish stamp” in passports, for which the Swiss authorities had also been responsible. She explained how as early as 1938 this stamp had made it virtually impossible for persecuted Jews to enter Switzerland legally. Not only this, but Jewish refugees were only tolerated, if they could prove that they planned to continue their journey and leave Switzerland again.

At the March of Life, the descendants of the perpetrators also broke the silence over their family histories and asked the representatives of the Jewish community for forgiveness. Along the route of the March, the organizers explained Anti-Semitism in Switzerland before and during the Second World War. One of the March’s participants said in tears, “I did not know about any of this.”

At the March of Life in St. Gallen, over a hundred participants publicly signed a statement in which they determined to never be silent in the face of anti-Semitism again. They presented this declaration to the city’s Jewish residents together with a donation .

The Messianic-Christian Center St. Gallen had organized the March. “As Christians we need a change in our thinking because it cannot be that we love Jesus and at the same time are against his people. How can we reject a people when God has accepted them?” asked Pastor Walter Bachmann. “Therefore, we want to connect to the worldwide March of Life Movement and seek reconciliation with the Jewish people.”

Photographs: Facebook March of Life

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