It's hard to believe it has been 10 years since I participated in The March. High school seems like light years away. And the way I see the world also seems vastly different. But I suppose that's what growing up means. Expanding horizons, being open to new ideas...wisening up. Shooting the massive event from the perspective of my project on Oswiecim made me look at the march quite differently. Not through the intensely emotional (and often tear-obscured) eyes of a participant, but as a more objective viewer. An outsider trying to see the big picture. Well, I still am not sure what this "big picture" looks like, but I know it's much more nuanced than I thought it was 10 years ago.
The central message of the March is of the utmost importance - "Never Forget!" Through firsthand experience it shows about 10,000 teenagers, mostly Jewish, the ultimate consequences of anti-Semitism and the need to learn from the past to avoid repetition, and the importance of solidarity with a Jewish homeland in Israel.
I feel to appropriately teach Holocaust education there need to be four major areas covered- pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Eastern Europe, the Holocaust itself, post-Holocaust history including what happened immediately after, and contemporary issues including Jewish-European relations. Seeing the March after having more experience and a broader education, I feel- for its particular audience- it focuses too much on the Holocaust itself and not enough on its context. It runs the risk of leaving participants with a sour taste of Eastern Europe in their mouths, and of placing all of their eggs in the Israel basket. I can attest to this from personal experience, and from the peers I traveled with. As secular Jews, most of us didn't fully appreciate what we lost in the Holocaust, aside from the emotional impact of knowing so many lives were extinguished...The immense wealth of knowledge and culture that was cultivated over 800 years in Poland before it was torn apart. In reality, Poland was the center of Jewish life (despite many problems and injustices) which is why the Nazis focused their attention there in the first place. My March experience left me bitter, seeing Poland as the land of darkness and Israel as the land of light. Our world is much more complex. We must remember what happened during the Holocaust, and never allow the memory of those lost to die out. But to achieve reconciliation and secure a safe and prosperous future, we need to present history in its full context so that our vision of the past isn't seen only through tears.