March Of Mutual Respect To Take Place Tomorrow

As has been the case for several years now, the March of Mutual Respect will take place in Wroclaw on the 9th of November in order to commemorate the Kristallnacht.

Those who gather at the White Stock Synagogue on Wednesday evening will turn their thoughts towards the horrors took place on the same night at the same place in 1938.

The procession will start from the Synagogue's courtyard at 6pm before moving onwards to the memorial at the site of the Neue Synagoge in ul. Łąkowa, which was burned to the ground by the Nazis on that fateful evening.

The march forms part of a week long programme of events that includes film screenings, theatrical plays, concerts and exhibitions. 

The Bente Kahan Foundation, who are organising the march as part of the Days Of Mutual Respect program, have encouraged people to join the march to show support for the ideals of mutual respect. Back in 2015 the foundation referred to the current politcal climate in their statement, and the words still remain relevant two years on:

"We will walk together to remind ourselves of the horrors that broke out here on that night in our town.  It is a reminder that freedom is fragile. Freedom of speech, religion and mutual respect cannot be taken for granted. It is something we have to strive for every day. For this one day in the year, we will once again remind ourselves that we have to work on ourselves and our surrounding environment even more. 

Our present day world is in turmoil. We are having difficulties understanding what is happening around us and we are searching for answers. Our beloved Poland and our beloved continent Europe is rapidly changing. We have new problems that have to be confronted."

To learn more about the Days Of Mutual Respect program before the 2015 march, I got in touch with one of its organisers, Tomasz Fila:

Hi Tomasz, thanks for taking your time to speak to Wroclaw Uncut. Could you tell us a little bit about the Bente Kahan Foundation?

The Bente Kahan Foundation started its activities back in 2006. Our primary goal was the restoration of the historic White Stork Synagogue (which dates back to 1829) as well as the creation of a Centre for Jewish Culture and Education. This work intends to honour and preserve the nearly 1000 year-old history of Jews in Wroclaw and the Lower Silesia region. Since its conception, the centre has been co-financed by the city of Wroclaw and administered by the Bente Kahan Foundation, all in cooperation with the Wroclaw Jewish community. The founder and chairperson of our board, Bente Kahan, is a Jewish Norwegian-born artist, a musican, director and actress.

Given all the friction that's been evident in Europe of late, what kind of impact do you think this march could have on the general public opinion?

The March has been organized each year since 2005 by the Bente Kahan Foundation to reinforce the ideas of mutual respect and tolerance. This is very important nowadays, especially in The Four Temples District. We hope this event will encourage people to be more open to differences and also bolster Wrocław's image as a genuine meeting place for people from all over our world of different races and creeds.

The program of events will touch on many symbolic traditions, some of which are related to the infamous Kristallnacht. For those who are not aware, could you explain a little about this tragic event and how it has shaped those traditions? 

On the night of the 9th November 1938, the Nazis brutally attacked Jews living in Germany, destroying synagogues, homes, businesses and other properties.

Each year since 2005, the Foundation has commemorated these events during the Days of Mutual Respect program, which incorporates performances for schools, lectures, films, concerts and exhibitions. The series of events then traditionally comes to a close with the March of Mutual Respect, which starts at the White Stork Synagogue and ends at the site of the former 'New Synagogue' .

This year the March will be opened by the head of the Jewish Community in Wroclaw, Aleksander Gleichgewicht, and the Mayor of Wroclaw,  Rafał Dutkiewicz. Before the March, there will be a ceremonial lighting of the eternal light, the ner tamid.

What role does the centre in the White Stork Synagogue play in the city?

The Center in the White Stork Synagogue is a hub for cultural events such as exhibitions, film screenings, workshops, lectures, competitions and concerts. It has also hosted numerous  educational theatre performances written and directed by Bente Kahan, which have been attended by more than twenty-five thousand youngsters from Wrocław and Lower Silesia. Many projects at the center are prepared together with the Jewish Studies Department of Wrocław University.

To find out more about the Days Of Mutual Respect program, visit the Bente Kahan Foundation website. 

About John Distefano

John Distefano
John Distefano is a journalism student in Uniwersytet Wroclawski, as well as an Italian teacher and musician based here Wroclaw.