My name is Robert Desmond and 6 years ago I cycled from London to Auschwitz to teach my friends and the world more about The Holocaust.
On joining the JCC in Krakow, I was inspired and overwhelmed by the community’s spirit and realised that my bike ride should not end in such a depressing place, but somewhere positive, as the story of the Jewish people does not finish in Auschwitz.
I am now a keen advocate of Holocaust education and I am very proud to see so many here today.
A survivor from this camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ed Mosberg, spoke at this year’s March of the Living ceremony.
He commented that The United Nations has set the day for Holocaust Memorial as January 27th, the day that Auschwitz was liberated.
For Ed Mosberg though, Holocaust Memorial day is on Monday, it’s on Tuesday it’s on Wednesday and it’s on Thursday and every day of his life.
He lost his whole family in the Holocaust; parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, everybody.
There is not one day that goes by where he doesn’t think about any of them.
I know there are many people here who lost ancestors in the Holocaust too and it is particularly powerful for you to be here today.
This is the place where it happened. Just over 70 years ago. This is where Ed Mosberg’s family were murdered. This is where an incomprehensible number of people were killed for no good reason.
The first time and in fact every time I visit a camp or learn something new about what happened, I appreciate how lucky I am in my life. When I visit I am reminded how my everyday troubles are so small in comparison to the horrors of the Holocaust.
I appreciate the things that I do have in my life; my family and my friends, many of whom are here today, you are more than enough to be thankful for – particularly my father who is joining me on a tandem for his first big cycling challenge.
I am so lucky; and by virtue of the fact you are here today means you are all so very lucky too.
It’s important that we don’t take anything for granted. A lot of my millennial generation and the snapchat generation expect life to give them something.
Life does not owe you anything, and the Holocaust is a reminder of just how fragile life is.
We must have no illusion that this is the only place where this happened, the whole of Europe is littered with death camps, shooting sites and mass graves from the Holocaust.
We must have no illusion that this could never happen again because it has happened since, it is happening now and it will happen in the future.
Never forget doesn’t just mean to remember, but it means to act.
We are all aware of many problems in the world; I believe the way to solve a lot of these problems is through education; that is why it is so important for people to come here, to learn, and to really process what happened.
So please, go home and tell everyone about your experience: your family, your friends, your coworkers, tell everyone what you have learnt and get them to visit, or at least to just learn more about what happened.
What should we do now though? We must live our lives to the full and that is the act we are doing today, we are celebrating our lives by taking part in Ride for the Living.
So many family members were lost here, and many whole families wiped out. Today we ride together as one large family, brothers and sisters, side by side from these gates of death, to the JCC’s gates of life.