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“march of the living” movie review

March of the Living number

Yes, that is a very disturbing image, above.

Yes, it is impossible to imagine that the Holocaust actually happened and could happen again.

And, yes, that’s why you and everyone in the world needs to watch Jessica Sanders’ powerful documentary, March of the Living.

Every year since 1988, thousands of teens from around the world have traveled to Poland with Holocaust survivors to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau. They visit — and, in the case of the survivors, revisit — the concentration camps where millions of Jews were put to death in gas chambers.

More than 100,000 kids have already participated in the annual March of the Living — a reverse Death March, as they call it. It’s forever changed their lives. And this documentary just may change some, too.

The film follows a group of survivors and teenagers from the United States, Brazil and Germany as they make the emotional journey. Along the way, they discover familiar names and photos that remind them that the Holocaust personally effected so many families including, in many cases, their own.

“When you see your relative’s name crossed out, proving he died in the Holocaust, it knocks you out,” says one teen.

March of the Living group

To the kids, this is a wake-up call that behind the staggering statistics were millions and millions of real human beings. As they’re confronted with rooms full of shoes and human hair and piles of ashes, their horror grows. “It’s something totally unbelievable,” admits one of the boys. “I was in shock for hours. It wasn’t like crying over a girlfriend or the end of a trip. I never cried like that before.”

“It’s terrifying to think people could be so heartless,” agrees one of the girls.

To this last generation of survivors, this is a final chance to educate future generations. “It’s so easy to forget,” sighs a survivor, “and there’s a real danger with that.”

When asked what they want the march to be, another survivor replies, “Anything that will help people understand.”

The importance of that desire becomes apparent when a high school senior says that the Holocaust felt so disconnected to her before she came on the March of the Living because it occurred before the internet and she couldn’t see it online. Think about that for a minute.

“It is very important for young people to see what happened so it never happens again,” says one of the survivors. “Silence is not an option.”

There are so many emotional moments in this film, including the relationship between the teens and the survivors. It’s moving to watch them comfort, support and educate each other — and tragic that the Holocaust is what brought them together.

The teenagers of other religions come to understand the universality of the Holocaust, and realize that no one is immune to this kind of hatred. “This is not just a Jewish thing,” says one of the girls. “You could be gay or black; if you weren’t Aryan, you could have died.”

The movie is, sadly, particularly relevant at this time because of the possibility of Donald Trump — someone who took a Star of David image off a Neo-Nazi website to use in a derogatory manner to describe his opponent, and whose supporters regularly post tweets identifying and threatening Jews — becoming President of the United States. As he promises to deport Mexicans and Muslims, it is more important than ever to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

Also, with the passing of Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel this week, the world lost a brilliant Auschwitz survivor who, as The New York Times wrote in his obituary, “became an eloquent witness for the six million Jews slaughtered in World War II and who, more than anyone else, seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world’s conscience.”

March of the Living begins with Wiesel’s quote, “To hear a witness is to become a witness oneself.”

Watch this film, hear the witnesses and do everything you can to make sure none of us ever witness anything like the Holocaust ever again.


  1. I remember back in school (long time ago) we were required to watch movies for Social Studies on the Holocaust and it forever changed my view of the world. I couldn’t look at the images without feeling ill. I still am that way, some forty years older. With that said, some of the horrific things taking place around the world today bring back those images. I’m not sure I can watch this but appreciate your bringing awareness to us.

  2. I think it is so important to keep these memories alive as much as possible. For those who think it didn’t happen or can’t happen again, just look at what is going on in the world. Short memories make history repeat! Great post

  3. This history is so alive for Boomers. But for generations behind us, it’s just a chapter in a history book unless they have family who were there. I think it’s important to share this with young people coming up.

  4. So powerful and important to keep this reality alive. If I see this movie, I will bring a BOX of tissues with me. My grandmother’s entire family suffered at the hands of the Nazis. We must never forget.

  5. My son would like this movie. He is studying the Holocaust and is into learning all he can about it.

  6. Nobody, that we know of, in my family was in the Holocaust. But our parents talked about it, not constantly, but enough.

    Later I asked my father why they didn’t do anything. “Because we didn’t know.” Coming from the generation that saw the first instant replay and Viet Nam on TV I had a hard time believing him.

    We no longer have that excuse. I didn’t think that at this point in my life I would be more radical than ever but we live in desperate sad times…

  7. This is such a tough topic, but one so important to continue talking about. I was not familiar with this movie or the march. I think always finding ways for newer generations to have these conversations and learn about the bad parts of history is so important. This is what people went through, and it very important to continue to value what they went through.

  8. I honestly cannot wait to see this movie. I have family members that were directly affected by the Holocaust. This movie will bring back some powerful memories for sure!

  9. Wow. Between Hebrew school and regular school, I can’t imagine NOT learning about it all the time. Even in college, I took a World War II class. What an important lesson and important film.

  10. This sounds like an amazing, important, and relevant documentary. Many kids have no idea about the horrors that took place… and the possibility things equally horrendous can happen again. I must see this. It seems the type of film that should be required viewing in high school (perhaps junior high) classrooms. Thank you for raising awareness, Lois.

  11. This sounds amazing. I agree with Lisa, it should be required in ALL classrooms across the nation.

  12. I have a friend Eva who is one of the survivors and goes to the March of the Living every year. She was a child during the war. I also participated in a March of the Living Event in Beverly Hills and met a man, Max Webb, who went through 6 death camps and survived to be a real estate developer and philanthropist. He is 99 and still doing well.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      I can’t imagine the horror they’ve experienced. That March of the Living event must have been very moving and emotional.

  13. Kimberly Dickerson says:

    I’ve always had a fascination with the Holocaust—not because I’m morbid but because I can’t believe that any government would allow something like this to even happen. How could one crazy man, Hitler, get away with killing all those innocent people?? It infuriates me.Movies like this are so important lest we forget. Mr. Wiesel’s book “Night” changed my life. He reminded me that even in the darkest of times, one can have hope.

  14. I think it is so important to be able to have these life moments shared. Although there is such sadness in this, we need to understand it and be sure our kids do too. It should be required in all schools. Thanks for sharing this.

  15. wow this is so important for people to remember. Our world is so evil at times and we must remember so we can realize how far we still need to go.

  16. Wow! It is terrible that this is a possibility for the future. The teen talking about seeing a relatives name crossed out and being knocked out…Wow.

  17. Very moving. Until recently I never understood why people would want to visit these grounds but it is necessary for some who never knew anyone or touched by anyone from the holocaust to grasp the horror. I grew up hearing the stories of survivors and about the lives of those that didn’t survive.

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