A march for the living

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Each year a March for the Living, is held to commemorate Jews who had to walk from the Jewish Ghetto of Cracow to the Plaszow Nazi concentration camp. This is just one of many such marches that take place every year in Poland.

Gabriel Stille reports

At the liquidation of the Cracow ghetto, the remaining Jewish population were forced to walk to the Plaszow labour camp. Now, each year a commemorative march is held in memory of the people of the ghetto, and descendants as well as others gather to show their respect and walk in the paths of their ancestors.

Esther Klein-Offer has never been to Cracow before herself, but she heard of the commemorative march as she was going to a symposium about her father, Hillel Klein.

For me, personally, it's like closing a circle going how my father went, because he was in the Cracow ghetto and then he went to Plaszow and then he worked as a convict there. It is the first time that I am here in Cracow. It was very hard for me to come here. I see that there is life here, and just to take part in this march is just to show that we were victorious and we live, and hope, hope is the main theme about it.

Another participant of the Hillel Klein symposum is Dr Menachem Stern:

I come here out of my free will, to march or to do the route, for the second time in my life. The first time was in 1943 when the ghetto was liquidated and everybody that was left at that time, and for me it was my mother, my father, my uncle and my grandmother, walked from the Umschlagplatz in Podgorze to Plaszow But at that time, you see, everyone walked, and I rode, because children were not supposed to be in Plaszow.

Menachem Stern explains how, as a child, he managed to go to Plaszow, a camp for people who could work:

I was supposed, actually, to report to the children's home. This establishment was put in one transport straight to Auschwitz. But I was spared that. I was left behind. It was negotiated with an Ordnungsdienst-man, and he came in the evening when they came to pick up the luggage to pick up the luggage that was left on the sidewalks, the took me and put me under the luggage and this is how, at night, I got to Plaszow.

It took many years before Esther Klein-Offer went to see Cracow, the home of her ancestors, and it also took some years before Menachem Stern came to take part in the memorial march:

I think it is like ten years since the city of Cracow and its Jewish counterpart initiated this memorial march, and I was contemplating to do it one day, but I kept postponing it for different reasons. But this year, as I was approached about the Hillel Klein Symposium, I said "This is the time", taking in consideration that, who knows, maybe next year they have to carry me again. So, here I am, as I survived it that time, I hope now that I will survive it again.

With Esther Klein-Offer is also her daughter. This is an occasion when generations of the ancestors of the inhabitants of the Jewish ghetto in Cracow gather to visit the home of their families for many years, to show respect for the dead but also show the triumph of being alive.