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Auschwitz, World War II, Germany, Jewish, Nazi, Holocaust, Genocide
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The March of the Living: Every year on the day before Yom ha-Shoa, the Jewish day of commemoration of the Holocaust, people gather in Auschwitz for the “March of the Living” to remind the world of the atrocities that took place during the Nazi Regime.
Daniel Etter

2006 — student award of excellence

While modern day Germany seems so far removed from the darkest chapter of its history, that is the Third Reich, the Holocaust still exists in the subconscious of many people and it influences political, social and cultural life.

Much of the justification for Germany’s participation in the 1999 NATO humanitarian intervention in Kosovo was a comparison of the atrocities happening in Kosovo to those that happened in Auschwitz. In the same year, after a public discussion that took more than five years, the German government decided to build the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" using a plan by architect Peter Eisenman. Construction of the memorial started in April 2003. Four months later it was stopped when it was discovered that the anti-graffiti substance covering the monument was provided by the German company Degussa, a subsidiary of which produced Zyklon B, the infamous chemical used in Nazi gas chambers.

But this influence is not only limited to Germany: the America president George W. Bush called opponents of the war in Iraq appeasement politicians, who committed the same mistakes as Edouard Daladier and Neville Chamberlain in 1938 when they complied with Hitler’s demands. Just recently, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad angered much of the international community when the compared the military missions of Israel in the Palestinian territories with the war crimes of the Nazis.

These are just a few examples of the “presence of the past” as German authors Gerhard Spoerl and Stefan Aust title their book. In my proposed photographic essay, I will explore how people deal with the memory of the Holocaust on a personal level. I will photograph victims of the holocaust, people who strive to keep the memory of the atrocities alive, and those who deny the Holocaust and even say that Hitler was a great statesman.

I have narrowed the scope of my project to photograph the following:
The March of the Living: Every year on the day before Yom ha-Shoa, the Jewish day of commemoration of the Holocaust, when people gather in Auschwitz for the “March of the Living” to remind the world of the atrocities that took place during the Nazi Regime. 

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Monks of the Catholic community of Oswiecim commemorate the victims of the Holocaust in the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nov. 6, 2005. The German occupation during World War II and the atrocities that happened during this time still play an important role in Polish society. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
Portraits of a small fraction of victims of Auschwitz taken by the camp staff. November 5, 2005. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
A fraction of the suitcases found in the warehouses of Auschwitz. November 5, 2005. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
Participants of the "March of the Living" stand inside a gas chamber of the former concentration camp Majdanek in Lublin, Poland, April 23, 2006. The "March of the Living" is an international youth gathering to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to educate. Before the actual gathering in Auschwitz on Yom ha-Shoa, the Jewish Holocaust commemoration day, groups visit other sites like the Warsaw Ghetto or Majdanek. Besides Auschwitz, Majdanek was the only concentration camp which was used as a extermination camp, as well. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
Women of the Catholic community of Oswiecim commemorate the victims of the Holocaust in the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, Nov. 6, 2005. The German occupation during World War II and the atrocities that happened during this time still play an important role in Polish society. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
A Jewish boy stands at a fence of the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkeanu during the "March of the Living", April 25, 2006. The "March of the Living" is an international youth gathering to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to educate. Before the actual gathering in Auschwitz on Yom ha-Shoa, the Jewish Holocaust commemoration day, groups visit other sites like the Warsaw Ghetto or Majdanek. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
A recent anti-Semitic drawing on a wall of one of the last remaining houses of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, April, 2006. Before World War II, Poland had a large Jewish community. Most of them were killed by the Nazis. But even after Germany's defeat, there were programs against Jews in Poland. Anti-Semitism can still be encountered in Poland today and many Jews keep their religion a secret. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
Neo-Nazis demonstrate in Warsaw, Poland, April 2006. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
A woman places a sign on railway tracks of the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkeanu during the "March of the Living", April 25, 2006. The "March of the Living" is an international youth gathering to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to educate. Before the actual gathering in Auschwitz on Yom ha-Shoa, the Jewish Holocaust commemoration day, groups visit other sites like the Warsaw Ghetto or Majdanek. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation
The Catholic community of Oswiecim commemorates the victims of the Holocaust in the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nov. 6, 2005. The German occupation during World War II and the atrocities that happened during this time still play an important role in Polish society. Daniel Etter/Alexia Foundation