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March Of The Living

Some 2,000 young people joined Holocaust survivors in a march Tuesday at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz to remember the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

The annual event was given added weight this year, participants said, by developments in Kosovo.

"Europe has not learned from the terrible things that happened here and we can see that in Kosovo," said Agnieszka Chrabalowska, 19, of Warsaw.

More than a half-million ethnic Albanians have fled or been driven out of Kosovo since NATO launched air strikes to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept a peace deal with separatist rebels.

The two-mile march from Auschwitz to the gas chambers at Birkenau is held annually on Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day.

Taking part this year were retired Israeli army officers who survived Auschwitz, 1,700 young Jews from Israel and other countries, as well as 200 Polish teen-agers, said march organizer, Acharon Tamir.

"I have come here to remember the victims, but also to celebrate the fact that there were survivors," said Rachel Boyman, 16, from Detroit. Boyman's great-grandparents died in the gas chambers of Treblinka, another death camp set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland.

Wearing blue jackets with a white "March of the Living" logo and Star of David on the back, the marchers walked in drizzling rain along the road linking the two parts of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, where the Nazis killed more than one million Jews from 1940 to 1945.

Many carried wooden tablets with the names of relatives who died at Auschwitz. They placed them around the Birkenau railway tracks, where cattle wagons packed with deportees rolled into the camp from all over Europe, bringing them to be gassed.

At the end of the march, candles were lit and the Jewish prayer for the dead was said.

Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Jerzy Buzek, led some 7,000 young Jews in the largest march so far, marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.

The first march was organized by the Israeli education ministry in 1988 on a biannual basis. Since 1996, the marches have been held each year as a history lesson to young Jews around the world.

Before World War II, Poland had a thriving Jewish population of 3.5 million. Today, there are just 20,000 Jews left in Poland. Some 75,000 non-Jewish Poles also perished at the camp.