Eighteen-year-old Michael Pevsner recently returned from a two-week trip to Europe. He embarked on a journey called The March of the Living, where thousands of teens from around the world gathered in Poland and Israel to mark two of the most significant dates on the modern calendar: Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel Independence Day. The purpose of the trip is to give students a first hand look at what life was like in Poland for the Jewish communities before the Holocaust.
“It was amazing to see so many different ways of living and culture, and to see the history that I’ve learned so much about,” said Pevsner.
The teens visited what were once vibrant Jewish communities in Poland before World War II, including the cities of Warsaw, Kraków and Lublin. After seeing and trying to picture what life was like back then, the students visited the concentration camps of Majdanek, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was in these camps where more than two-and-a-half million Jews and others were murdered by the Nazis. The teens participated in a March from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Memorial Day.
“My favorite memory was the march from Auschwitz to Birkenau,” said Pevsner of the symbolic march that retraces the steps, which countless numbers of innocent civilians were forced to take on their way to annihilation.
This time, the difference is that this was not a March of Death, rather it was the March of the Living, with thousands of teens marching shoulder to shoulder to show the world they would never forget the atrocities.
The second leg of the trip took the teens to their Jewish homeland of Israel, where they were able to take part in Remembrance Day and Independence Day celebrations.
Pevsner recommends that more teens step outside their own front door into the world to experience it for themselves.
“Young people have a way of looking at the world that adults can’t see, and I think they can benefit so much more at that age,” he said. “I learned that much of the world I had no clue about ever existed. The world is much bigger place than I thought.”