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Auschwitz Memorial Walk & ICEJ-Germany

Nov/Dec 2019 WFJ Article

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20 Nov 2019 (All day)
Auschwitz Memorial Walk & ICEJ-Germany

An Unusual Commemoration

“Here we are again, one year later: visiting Auschwitz, and then walking these 120 kilometers to commemorate the exceptional act of two Slovak Jews, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler. During the walk, old friends meet again and new friendships are struck up. Remembering those who never escaped from Auschwitz. Deep thoughts, light conversation, laughter and attentive listening to excerpts from books written by the two heroes. Anger, disappointment and reconciliation. New plans and ideas. Whatever you imagine.”

These are the words of a participant of the annual memorial walk from Oswiecim, Poland to Zilina, Slovakia. Since 2014, this walk has been organized by the Czech and Slovak branches of the ICEJ, to commemorate a heroic escape from the death camp in April 1944, motivated by the effort to save Hungarian Jews. The two Slovak escapees, Vrba and Wetzler, are credited with saving up to 200,000 lives; definitely something worth commemorating.

This commemoration is unique because it is not a ceremony or a classroom lecture, but it is action. People walk for six days, following in the footsteps of these heroes; exposed to the elements, sleeping in tents or simple mountain cabins. They spend time together, listen to the story of the escape, discover the authentic places, enjoy beautiful nature and have plenty of time for reflection. And, surprisingly, almost all of them return the next year to repeat this arduous, and yet richly rewarding experience. 

Their feedback might tell you why they return year after year:
“… Thank you for the wonderful week. Great cleansing of mind in the company of nice people. This year has been the best of all. I look forward to seeing you again next year.”

“Dear friends, thank you for your pleasant company of exceptional people during the walk in August. We will certainly see each other again.”

“Thank you for everything. It is wonderful that even after the walk is over, this community lives on. We are looking forward to the next meeting.” 

“Next year in Auschwitz” might sound strange, but actually, it is not a bad idea. Try it out. Check out the project website at www.vrbawetzler.eu where you will also find the application. I hope to see you there.
 

ICEJ-Germany hosts Yair Netanyahu at National Conference
-by ICEJ Staff

ICEJ-Germany held its annual national conference in Stuttgart in August, and invited Yair Netanyahu as a special guest to address the issue of German government funding of anti-Israel causes.

In recent months, German media outlets have been reporting extensively on the Berlin government’s direct and indirect grants to radical left-wing NGOs in Israel that seek to undermine Israeli policies and its democratic processes. The issue came to the fore after Yair Netanyahu, son of Israel’s prime minister, challenged German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in a tweet to stop the funding.

In his well-received speech to the gathering of over 1,000 German Christians and Jewish community leaders in Stuttgart, Yair Netanyahu provided more background on the German government’s funding of leftist NGOs in Israel and the Palestinian territories. He asserted that Germany does not provide similar funding to NGOs in any other democratic country except for Israel. He also noted persistent reports of German support of Iran over recent years. In other remarks, Netanyahu gave a review of modern Israel’s rebirth, and spoke of Israel’s favorable treatment of its Christian community in contrast to the plight of Middle East Christians in neighboring Arab countries.

 

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