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Associated Press
Oswiecim, Poland – Around 10,000 young Jews, Poles and World War II survivors took part in the March of the Living on Thursday, an annual event at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau that honors the memory of some 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
This year’s march, the 17th, started with the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn, at the iron gate – crowned with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “Work Sets You Free” – that leads into the former camp of Auschwitz.
The misleading inscription was to suggest to inmates they were coming to work, not die here.
Israeli army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, led the long column of marchers, accompanied by some camp survivors and fellow Israeli troops wearing their uniforms.
Some of them, carrying the Torah, were the first to arrive at the Birkenau part of the camp, where prayers and speeches will be held.
Israel also held observances in memory of Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust, with sirens wailing and traffic halting for two minutes across the country.
In Poland, as in previous years, marchers from some 50 countries wore trademark blue rain jackets and formed a sea of blue, with Israeli white-and-blue national flags fluttering overhead. There was an occasional drizzle, as they walked in Oswiecim, the Polish city where the Germans built the complex.
They walked in silence along a two-mile stretch (about 3 kilometers) from the red brick houses of Auschwitz to Birkenau, another area of the camp that is the site of wooden barracks and ruins of the gas chambers.
Among them was Avram Grant, the Israeli manager of English soccer club Chelsea, which advanced to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool on Wednesday night in London.
It was his seventh visit to Auschwitz with his son Daniel, 14, and wife Tsofit. His Polish-born father is a Holocaust survivor.
“It was terrible how people behaved to other people,” Grant said. “It is good that they kept a place like this as a memory and as education that to hate someone is not the right way.”
“Many of my family died here, were killed here, murdered,” he said.
Teenage participants also stressed the power of remembering.
“The most amazing feeling of the march is togetherness,” said Elana Weiner, a 17-year-old student from Tucson, Arizona. “We are the key to the future and if we remember and promise to never forget, then the rest of the world won’t.”
The Kaddish – the Jewish prayer for the dead – will be said at a huge stone monument to the camp’s victims at Birkenau.
At least 1.1 million people, including Jews, Poles and Roma, perished in the Nazi camp’s gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labor. The camp was liberated in January 1945 by Soviet troops.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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