Participants of the March of the Living walk under the entrance gate to the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau with the infamous German inscription 'Arbeit Macht Frei', (Work Sets You Free) in Oswiecim, Poland, Monday, April 8, 2013. | AP Photo
Updated: April 8, 2013 1:12PM
OSWIECIM, Poland — Thousands of youths from Israel and other countries marched in silence Monday at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi death camp in Poland, to pay homage to 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.
Frank Lowy of Australia, a Holocaust survivor whose father died in the camp, joined the youths as they walked between the two main sections of the complex, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Israeli armed forces’ chief of staff, Benny Gantz, son of a Holocaust survivor, made a speech to them.
Many of the young people wore blue windbreakers bearing the logo of the event, which coincided with Israel’s annual Holocaust memorial day and is called the “March of the Living.” Some also carried Israeli flags. Upon arriving at the stone memorial of Birkenau, the youths watched a recorded message from Israeli President Shimon Peres.
They later lit six torches in tribute to the victims, Holocaust survivors and those who risked their lives to save Jews.
This year’s march also honored the fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis. April 19 will mark 70 years since they launched their doomed struggle.
The observances were broadcast live for the first time on the March of the Living website.
The annual 3-kilometer (2-mile) march traditionally starts from the Auschwitz main gate with its notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes You Free”) inscription and closes with ceremonies by the Birkenau memorial.
The march began in 1988 as a biennial event, but was soon staged yearly.
So far, more than 185,000 youths from around the world have taken part, according to the International March of the Living organizers.
During World War II, the Nazis killed some 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, but also Russians, Roma, Poles and other nationals at Auschwitz-Birkenau.