Houston to March in Remembrance of the Holocaust

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Influential Event Comes to Four Houston Area Locations

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"Darkness and silence always go together," - Pastor Jobst Bittner, founder of the March of Life

In preparation for the 2015 March of Remembrance Houston on April 18th and 19th, Pastor Jobst Bittner, founder of the March of Life in Tübingen, Germany, recently shared about the history and vision of the March at several locations across the Greater Houston Area, including the Houston Holocaust Museum, Texas A&M University Galveston Campus, and the Houston Area Pastors’ Council. Those coming to hear Bittner speak included Holocaust survivors and their descendants, as well as Daniel Agranov, Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Southwest United States.

“Darkness and silence always go together,” said Bittner, and in the current climate of increasing anti-Semitism, the March of Remembrance provides an avenue for people to arise from silence and indifference to stand as a light in the face of oppression. This year, marches will be held in over 50 cities across the U.S., and in more than 30 cities in Germany, on Saturday, April 18th and Sunday, April 19th. Statewide event locations and details can be found at http://www.marchofremembrance.org.

Bittner’s book, “Breaking the Veil of Silence”, discusses the roots of anti-Semitism over the years and describes his own experiences with the initial unwillingness of many in Europe to confront their past. It also charts the creation of the March of Life and March of Remembrance, which recently received an award at the Knesset in Israel, and describes how those that choose to remain silent while their fellow humans are oppressed become perpetrators themselves.

Jobst Bittner was born in 1956 to parents who were Nazi party members during the war, his father having fought in both France and North Africa. Growing up, neither of his parents talked about the Holocaust, believing they had not part in the mass murder of 6 million Jews. Bittner later learned that this attitude was common throughout much of Europe; many people did not talk even with their families about the Holocaust.

Like Bittner, many children born to Nazi families after the war did not know the extent of their families’ involvement until much later in life. The true extent of this ‘veil of silence’ became clear to him when he and his wife studied at Tübingen University in the 1980s. To his surprise, many people there were ignoring the fact that the Holocaust had been perpetrated in camps just miles from the city.

As the city and the university began digging through the past, and as more perpetrators began to open up about the things that happened during the war, the later generations finally began to learn about their families’ involvement in the Holocaust.

As a counselor at his church, Bittner heard the stories of children and grandchildren of Nazis that were trying to cope with these hard truths that had been uncovered. He then created the March of Life to break the silence that has plagued Europe since World War II.

In an attempt to find healing for those struggling with the past, and to find the words that their fathers and grandfathers could not find, Bittner planned a march along the same roads where Hitler had forced Jews to march in what are now known as death marches. However, the March of Life would walk in the reverse direction of the marches, back to their camps of origin.

As Bittner was organizing the first March of Life in 2007, he was contacted by Jewish friends and survivors that wanted to participate. The march grew, and many survivors returned to these roads for the first time since liberation. Children and grandchildren of perpetrators of the Holocaust were able to ask victims for forgiveness and make an attempt at finding peace with their families’ pasts. They had broken the veil of silence and opened the door to reconciliation.

Although Bittner first thought this would be the only march, it became apparent that anti-Semitic feelings were widespread, and veils of silence needed to be broken in other locations too. The second march was held in 2008 in eastern Germany and was in the shape of a Star of David. Over the next few years, other cities in other countries such as Poland, Ukraine, and Austria expressed interest in having marches. A few years after this, marches had also begun in the United States.

This year there will be 30 marches throughout Europe, and 56 in the United States. The only way the atrocities of the Holocaust were able to take place was because millions stayed silent when confronted with the oppression and deportation of their neighbors. You can join the survivors, liberators, 2nd and 3rd generation survivors and others on one or more of these marches to honor those lost, educate the living, provide healing to those affected by the Holocaust, and vow never to stay silent in the face of evil.

About the March of Remembrance
The March of Remembrance is a sister to the March of Life in Europe, which was started in 2007 by Pastor Jobst Bittner, TOS Ministry, of Tubingen Germany. Marches are held in over 50 US cities, and internationally, on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust and stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in saying Never Again.

The March provides an opportunity to honor Holocaust survivors and let their stories be told; educate a generation that is many times unaware of the reality of the horrors of the Holocaust; remember not only those who were lost in the Holocaust, but those who fought for freedom; and engage the issues of anti-Semitism and social justice.

2015 March of Remembrance Dates and Locations:

Saturday, April 18th, 2015:
Brenham, Baytown and Kingwood (the March in Kingwood will conclude at the Holocaust Garden of Remembrance at Kings Harbor Waterfront Village near the restaurants, where there will be a short dedication of the garden and a Celebration of Life event, with a book signing by our survivors, fellowship and lovely restaurants to enjoy).

Sunday, April 19th, 2015:
Central Houston (beginning at Rice Temple Baptist Church and ending at Holocaust Museum Houston's Citywide Yom HaShoah commemoration at Congregation Emanu El.)

Register online and receive updates at http://www.MarchofRemembranceHouston.org

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Rozalie Jerome
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