Ride for the Living 2018: Auschwitz to the JCC Krakow

This is the outline of my speech that was given at the gates of Auschwitz ahead of our 5th Ride for the Living event with over 200 people participating.

Standing at the gates of Auschwitz

Firstly I want to thank you all for making the time and effort to come here to take part in this event. It is a privilege to be able to ride with so many like minded people who want to remember the past but also want to celebrate life today and make a statement that the Jewish people’s story did not end here.

But I also want to stress the importance of recognising how lucky we are that we get to do this.

The world has come a long way in so many ways. Medicine, technology, equality are just examples. But we cannot be so complacent that prejudice has been eradicated. In fact I am not sure prejudice will ever be gone from society.

We all have prejudices built into our sub conscience. Even if we try to block them out they still exist and it doesn’t come from the far right only, it also comes from the left and all things in between. We all have them.

I sometimes find myself generalising about a people and think, isn’t this what the Nazis said about us Jews?

We must be firm to take a stance against intolerance today. When you see it, you must stand up and not sit idly by injustices to our fellow humans.

The world has changed in so many ways, but these issues are still relevant today as they were 80 years ago.

The ride is a message to the world that what is behind us cannot define us. It can shape us into what we are today, but the story didn’t end here. There is still Jewish life in the world and specifically down the road that we are cycling today.

Over 200 riders outside the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau ready to start

On the ride there will be moments of sadness as you think where you are coming from, and moments of happiness as you see 200 strong people cycling together. We have cyclists young and old, we have 2 survivors with us, Marcel Zielinski and Bernard Offen, we have a Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and we have lots doing their first ride. Coming together at the JCC in Kraków is one of the most beautiful things you will ever see.

Overall you will enjoy this experience. It is incredibly uplifting, and if nothing else it will be wet — enjoy every drop!

I want to end on one final idea. In this place of Auschwitz, in other death camps set up by the Nazis, in ghettos and shooting sites across the whole of Europe, many people lost their lives. So many families were torn apart and even whole families wiped out. But today we ride together, we ride as one large family, away from this place.

Marcel Zielinski, Holocaust Survivor from Auschwitz, arriving at the JCC after the 100km ride