BOSTON – World War II Supreme Allied Commander and future U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower predicted that someday there would be people brazen and hateful enough to deny the Holocaust ever occurred.
Today, 75 years after the end of World War II, amidst the worldwide rise of anti-Semitism, thousands of Jewish teens annually visit the Nazi death camps under the auspices of March of the Living, to see where so much happened and to try to understand why.
Concerned by the Holocaust knowledge gap and denial of history that has become pervasive on college campuses, Irv Kempner, son of Holocaust survivors, has taken on the role of CEO of the New England Friends of the March of the Living (NEMOTL). MOTL is an international organization, which annually brings some 10,000 Jewish teens from around the world to Poland and Israel to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hate. (Visit https://motlnewengland.org/)
In a 2018 survey, 31 percent of Americans — and 41 percent of millennials in that group – admitted they don’t believe that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, according to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), is concerned about the level of Holocaust knowledge, particularly among young people: “The farther we move away from the terrible events of the Nazi era, the more creative we have to be in connecting young people, for whom it is all ancient history, to the horrors that took place — and how it is relevant to today’s society.”
“The mission of this one-of-a-kind program is to ensure the perpetuation of March of the Living through our Teen Trip Scholarship Fund and other activities to create awareness, to promote and fund the Program,” said Kempner. “The MOTL experience instills the necessity to ‘Never Forget’ and the importance of supporting the State of Israel as the voice, refuge and shield of the Jewish People, and of continuing to share the stories of Holocaust survivors for generations to come.”
A CUNY survey showed that 95 percent of past teen participants say the MOTL trip strengthened their Jewish identity and their bond with Israel. Ninety percent of respondents said MOTL made it more likely they would financially support Jewish causes, and 90 percent said they’re now more inclined to get involved when confronted with anti-Semitism, such as on their college campus.”
Kempner, who has been on nine MOTL trips, says, “The experience inspires participants to lead the Jewish community into the future vowing ‘Never again,’ and to fight all forms of prejudice. This experience insures a lifetime of community engagement. Enabling teens to participate is a proven investment in our future.”
For information about registering for an upcoming teen or adult March of the Living, go to https://motlnewengland.org/.