IDF Chief in Poland: We Will Never Again Stand Unready to Defend Ourselves

Benny Gantz makes a speech to thousands of youths marching at Auschwitz-Birkenau in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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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.

"We will not forget nor will we allow it to be forgotten," IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said. "And we will surely never ever stand again unready to defend ourselves!"

"By our standing and marching here today, we commit to preserve the memory of the Holocaust; to mark our people's courage as well as the knowledge of the depths of evil to which man can sink," Gantz said.

President Shimon Peres recorded a special message that was delivered to 11,000 youths from Israel and around the world who are currently in Auschwitz, Poland, as part of the annual "March of the Living" trip.

The president's message was broadcasted on a large screen to the youths at 5:00 P.M. Israel time Monday.

In the message, which will be uploaded to the president's Facebook page and other social media platforms later on Monday, Peres said "There are less Jews today than there were on the eve of World War II. The pain, wounds and void still exist. They live inside usWithin only three years, the biggest miracle happened to us. The revival of the Jewish people: The State of Israel, which emerged against all odds."

Peres was joined by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined on Monday morning at the wreath-laying ceremony in Yad Vashem's Hall of Remembrance as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Kerry also participated in a ceremony called Unto Every Person There is a Name held at the Knesset, where Peres recited the names of his relatives killed in the Holocaust.

Israel began commemorating "Yom Hashoah" on Sunday evening, with an official ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The commemoration continued on Monday, starting with a two-minute silence to remember the victims of the Shoah at 10 A.M. 

The 22nd march also honors the fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising against the Nazis. April 19 will mark 70 years since they started their doomed struggle.

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.

The Nazis killed some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Reconnaissance mission: IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz leading the March of the Living.Credit: IDF Spokesman
Kerry participates in Holocaust Remembrance DayCredit: Screenshot

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