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10 NOVEMBER 2016


Scott Saunders wants young Jewish people to join him on a life-changing

trip to learn about their history and identity and carry this important
connection into the future. He is very clear about why...
Three kilometers. Thats all it is from Auschwitz to Birkenau,
but its a stretch of road marked by railway tracks that Scott
Saunders knows very well as he has walked the path countless
times. By his own admission, he is an unlikely frequent visitor.
A comfortable childhood in north-west London, an
education at UCS school and more importantly without
any familial ties to the Holocaust, just a very basic understanding of a horrific subject. Enough to get by is how
Scott once would have described it, but that all changed
when he got an invitation.
Married and working as a successful international
banker in Tokyo in 1992, invitations were plentiful, but it
was one asking him to attend a memorial service honouring
Japanese wartime hero Chiune Sugihara that opened
Scotts eyes to the realities of the Shoah and the story of a

courageous diplomat who got visas for thousands of Jews

that made him want to know more. Lots more and he was
soon reading everything he could about the Holocaust and
growing more interested in his Judaism.
He even became chairman of a synagogue when he
moved to Hong Kong three years later, and in that role
hosted an exhibition for Sydneys Jewish Museum, where
he met people who had survived the camps he had only ever
seen as muted images in books.
In 2005, Scott took 10 adults from Hong Kong to Poland
to join the March of the Living. This is an annual event
that brings thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish people
from around the world to mark Yom Hashoah by remembering those who took their last steps on the desolate track
between Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Scotts recollections of his first March of the Living

experience are visceral. The things he saw and the people
he met, many of whom were survivors, made such an
impact on him that he spread the word in Hong Kong and
brought many other visitors in subsequent years.
When the world financial market crashed in 2009, Scott
decided it was time for a change. But this was no short-lived
epiphany, and he came back to the UK to make his mark.
I was amazed when I had gone on March of the
Living that there had only ever been a peripheral UK
Jewish presence, says Scott, who also gained a Masters
in modern Jewish history. I wanted to change that and
while there have always been tours of remembrance to
Poland, I wanted to offer the gold standard of trips in
Holocaust education.
Continued on page 2


Jewish News 10 November 2016

March of the Living

A 20 year absence from the UKs Jewish community
proved an advantage for Scott (in some ways) as
he was oblivious to political and religious divides. So
rather than pander to them, he ignored them and set
out his plan to launch March of the Living as a crosscommunal, non-religious experience that encourages
connecting to ones Jewish identity and being part of
the community as a whole going forward.
With only a small number of survivors living in
Britain, Scott understood how important it was to get
them involved in March of the Living, both as educators and participants, and he succeeded.
We have the very best teachers, he notes. I
also realise there will be a time when there are no
survivors and it is crucial that March of the Living
continues so that young people can learn the facts.
I also believe that every participant learns the
history and, as such, becomes better equipped to fight
hatred, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, all which
are increasing.
In 2010, Scott (pictured, right, with Chief Rabbi
Ephraim Mirvis) set off to Poland with his first March
of the Living UK participants. There were just a
handful of people, but it was the start of something
he had dreamt about. Remarkably, since then, Scott
has convinced youth group leaders to come together

as a community for seven days and join him and

other young adults on buses filled with highly-trained
educators who, between Warsaw and Krakow, teach
them about their history and why, in a way, all Jews
are survivors.
That Scott has achieved all this single-handedly
and runs the show from a laptop on his dining room
table are just details, as far as he is concerned.
He has more important things to talk about, such
as the fact that the donations he pushes for allow
students to come on board without prohibitive costs.
When necessary, Scott funds shortfalls for the trips
from his own pocket, but then, he has always done
whatever is necessary to help March of the Living UK
to grow.
I started with 10 and this year will take 300, he
says proudly. When people raise objections about
going, I remind them of the words of Rabbi Israel Lau:
As Jews, we knew how to die together, but we still
havent learnt how to live together. The value of life is
one of the most important things this journey teaches
you as well as the necessity to say never again, not just
as or to Jews, but for all humanity.
And thats what Scott wants participants to think
about and remember, on the walk from Auschwitz to
Birkenau next April before lighting a candle.




o go on the March of the Living or not to go.

Some hesitate, saying they are nervous, not
ready or afraid of what they will see. I have
gone on the March five times. I am a Holocaust
survivor. Why do I keep going?
I go because in spite of the distress of actually walking through the camp barracks, the gas
chambers and the crematoriums, the March is also
an uplifting experience. A spirit of camaraderie
develops between people who were strangers
when they arrived in Warsaw. I have learned from
the participants that they take comfort and feel
a sense of pride in Jewish resistance, for example
walking along Warsaws heroism trail and stopping
at Mila 18 and, more importantly, resistance by
inmates of the camps.
I go because it helps Marchers to talk to
someone who has actually lived through the
Holocaust. And, in return, the marchers look after
me with love and concern when I share my own
I go because the March of the Living experience where we witness what was the Holocaust

strengthens the sense of Jewish history and

community and the importance of our continued
existence, not only for the participants but for me
each time I am in Poland.
Then there is the day of the March itself. The
air is filled with excitement. We exchange greetings with people in the crowd of more than 10,000
people from all over Europe, the Americas, from as
far away as Japan and, of course, Israel, all united
to take part in the long walk across the vast camp to
Birkenau for the commemorative service. Miraculously, after days of shivering in wintry Polish
weather, the sun comes out and the thermometer
mysteriously shoots up. Only once in the five years
did it rain, and then the downpour was sporadic.
The Holocaust is part of our Jewish history.
Taking part in the March, it becomes a living
history. I am truly fortunate that not only I but my
mother survived the Holocaust. Over and over, she
insisted: You must tell our story; everyone has to
know what happened. Spending the five days of
the March of the Living with its generous participants is a way of fulfilling her wish.

10 November 2016 Jewish News


March of the Living


March of the Living UK volunteer,

World Jewish Reliefs head of external
affairs and senior vice president of
the Board of Deputies of British Jews


his year has been an uncomfortable one

for many British Jews. Anti-Semitism
in politics has dominated the news
headlines for months.
Some of us might think thats a good thing:
perhaps sunlight is the best disinfectant. Others
feel distinctly uncomfortable travelling to work
on the train with anti-Semitism on the front
page of the newspapers.
Whether you think the people airing these
abhorrent views are hardcore anti-Semites or
mere misguided fools, the antidote to the poison
is the same: education.
Jews have always known that the key to
success is educating the next generation. The
transmission of Jewish identity from the past
to the present is the only guarantee of a Jewish
identity of the future.
The Hebrew word for education is chinuch.
Chinuch doesnt mean learning dry facts by rote.

Linguistically, the word comes from the

same root as Chanukah and means initiation or
inauguration. Just as the festival of Chanukah
celebrates the inauguration of the Temple in
Jerusalem after the Greeks vandalised it and
tried to ban Jewish education so, too, chinuch
means to inculcate Jewish values in our
children to take on the mantle of this rich, vast
tradition of ours and pass it on to their children.
Holocaust education is one component of
that. Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) teaches
that you have to know where you came from in
order to know where youre going. History can
guide us today.
I felt a certain irony standing in Auschwitz
earlier this year just after the anti-Semitism
row began back home. Clearly recent events
are nowhere near the state-sponsored antiSemitism that allowed the Holocaust to happen.
But Auschwitz still serves as a chilling reminder
perhaps the ultimate memorial of what
unadulterated hatred and ignorance can lead to.
It was my sixth visit to Poland with March of
the Living UK since it was founded in 2010. For
a number of years, I was a bus leader, looking
after the Jewish students and youth movements

participating. Ive helped with the logistics. Im

now training to be an educator. Its a daunting
March of the Living UK was set up to be
the gold standard in Holocaust education. It
has no religious or political agenda: whoever
you are, whatever you believe, youll find a
warm welcome with us. All we hope is that the
experience of travelling across Poland helps
participants take another step on their Jewish
journey. A total of 1,300 people have already had
that opportunity: wed love you to join the UK
delegation in 2017.
March of the Living UK also offers an insight
into the extraordinary resurgence of Jewish life
today, particularly in Krakows beautiful Jewish
Community Centre, built by World Jewish
Relief and opened by The Prince of Wales and
The Duchess of Cornwall in 2008.
Our outstanding educators dont tell you
what to think or believe, because thats not
chinuch either. What matters is that participants go back with a deeper understanding
of how the Holocaust happened so that it can
never happen again.
Education is the answer to the bigots.


Educator on MOTL UK, and CEO of Tzedek

the rest of the year

ne of our primary concerns as educators teaching the Holocaust is how to

present horrific and tragic events in a
sensitive and appropriate manner. At the heart,
the learning on March of Living is an understanding that the tragedy of the Holocaust is
the loss of Jewish life. To really understand
that loss, we need to uncover the life of Polish
Jewry that was vibrant, rich, often fragile, and
lasted some 1,000 years in Poland. To dwell on
the destruction of European Jewry during 15
years of Nazism is to belittle the memory of
those that perished.
This means that we, as educators need to be
historians of Polish history and the Holocaust.
And coupled with that, skilful group facilitators
and tour guides. And while we each deliver a
programme alone, key to our ability to deliver
this outstanding March of the Living experience is our work as a faculty, learning together
and from one another.
Over this coming year, we are learning with

some of the UKs top academics professor
Antony Polonsky, Dr Francois Guesnet and
Dr Shirli Gilbert to ensure the history we
present is based on the latest historiographic
understanding. We are going to Poland as
a faculty to learn in the newly-built Polin
museum in Warsaw. We will be visiting sites

and sharing best pedagogy and then sitting

up till late to debate the common themes and
issues that teaching in Poland raises. One of the
new areas for us to explore is the contemporary
Polish-Jewish relations that are both intriguing
and enlightening.
Furthermore, its also about training new
educators. We have nine new educators joining
us to create a larger pool. This of course not
only benefits the wonderful work that March of
the Living UK sets out to achieve, but actually
benefits the entire Jewish community. For us
educators, this is an enriching programme of
learning. Its also essential.
We want to make sure that the experience
we build for participants covers historical
material and highlights complicated
human behaviour, while ensuring the experience enriches the Jewish identities of every
And maybe most importantly, it honours
and ensures we do not forget the lives lost
during the dark episode of the Holocaust.


Jewish News 10 November 2016

March of the Living

All photography by Sam Churchill

March of the Living 2017

19th 25th April

An experience
youll never forget
(Which is the whole idea)

Join us for a life changing journey.

March of the Living 2017.
On 19 25th April 2017, thousands of Jewish people will
march three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the
largest concentration camp complex built by the Nazis
during World War II.
The March commemorates Yom Hashoah, Holocaust
Remembrance Day. You can be there along with over
10,000 participants from more than 40 countries.
Prior to the March, you will travel as part of a small group,
visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau
and Majdanek, as well as historic Jewish sites in Poland.
Like previous Marchers, you will find that the trip has a
profound impact, giving you a new sense of self. It will be
an experience that will remain with you for a lifetime.

March of the Living 19 25th April 2017

To read more about this unique experience visit:

March of the Living UK

Registered Charity No: 1138604