An annual Jewish trip that might be the last chance some for survivors to be able to visit the Auschwitz death camp to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day has been postponed for the first time amid fears surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite health concerns, over 50 elderly survivors had planned to travel this year to mark what is the 75th anniversary.
Tel Aviv-based guide Maya Yehezkel said: “For Holocaust survivors who now don’t have the opportunity to go, it’s devastating.
“Some survivors won’t be able to come next time. In fact, some of them were planning that this would be their last year.”
The annual educational programme the March of the Living typically draws thousands of people from around the world to Poland for a memorial walk between the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps used by the Nazis during World War II. It also brings in survivors
The tour finishes with a trip to Israel to mark Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut), beginning on the evening of 28th April and ending the following night.
March of the Living chair Shmuel Rosenman has announced the postponement of the event with a “heavy heart” due to COVID-19 fears.
He added that it is necessary “to take precautionary measures in accordance with the guidelines given by the authorities in various countries”.
This year’s march was considered important because it marks the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp where over a million people were killed, mostly Jews.
Two weeks ago, Israel’s Education Minister Rafi Peretz blocked high school trips to Poland to visit historical Holocaust sites due to virus concerns.
March of the Living president Phyllis Greenberg Heideman said: “It’s really tragic for us, and it’s happening 75 years since liberation of Auschwitz when our programme was geared around the anniversary.”
Attendees were expected to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on 21st April, and a rescheduled date is yet to be announced.
So far, 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Poland with no fatalities.
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