Taking place in Poland, the March of the Living is an annual Holocaust memorial and education programme, which includes a march to commemorate people murdered and persecuted by the Nazi regime.
From Monday through to Thursday, myself and other delegates from around the world met Holocaust survivors and were shown the death camps built to carry out the murder of 6 million Jews and those who didn’t fit into the perverted ideology of the Nazis.
It was an utterly harrowing experience. Walking into Auschwitz, beneath the infamous sign that reads ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (‘work makes you free’) you are hit by the sickening scale of the Holocaust.
Auschwitz itself resembles a factory, built not for producing, but for the destruction of lives. The sense of tragedy is suffocating. You see images of the people who were so brutally murdered, the men, women and children who were robbed of their humanity, killed by a sick ideology intent on removing an entire race from the face of the earth.
Throughout the trip, I kept asking myself the question “how could human beings do this?”
I don’t have an answer. The horrors are beyond comprehension. But they serve as a reminder of what happens when politics is weaponised by hate and bigotry.
Among the heartbreak of the trip, there were inspiring moments of profound hope. Our delegation was led around the sites by Mala, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor. Mala has seen the worst of humanity, yet still manages to be joyful and optimistic about what the future holds.
The March itself reinforced this optimism.
I stood with thousands of delegates, Holocaust survivors and Jewish people who had come to take part in the event.
I was struck by the image of Jewish people of all ages following a route that, 80 years earlier, had been the site of such horrors. It felt like an act of courage, of defiance. A profound rebuke to the sickness of Nazism and fascism. Despite the millions of lives lost, hate did not win.
It is for this reason that Holocaust education is so important. What the Nazis did must never, ever be allowed to happen again.
That means all of us, across Tameside and across the country, have a duty to call-out hate in our daily lives, to stand up for what’s right, and to pass on these principles to future generations. ‘Never again’ must be more than words, it must also be deeds.