A Religion of kindness: The legacy of a Holocaust survivor and mentor

Ottawa student, Anneke Goodwin, shares the powerful impact of her recent participation on the Coast-to-Coast March of the Living.

In memory of Alex Buckman z’l, Holocaust Survivor with the Coast-to-Coast delegation who passed away on April 21, 2023


I entered English class for the first time in two weeks, and the first thing my teacher asked me was, “What was your biggest take away from March of the Living?”

Alex Buckman’s words came back to me, as they have many times since his passing.  

“I’ve always struggled with the idea of G-d.  I believe in the religion of kindness.”  

Spending time with and hearing the wisdom of child survivor Alex Buckman was the most memorable part of my March of the Living experience. I learned and felt first-hand how vital it is to share survivor testimony. I went in knowing how important it is to bear witness, but through this trip I came to understand how crucial it is to create and maintain relationships of love and respect with our most powerful story tellers. I think it is the most impactful way to learn and feel our past. I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks surrounded by people who shared their own stories, the stories of their family members, and the stories of their communities. Telling and retelling, so we can feel, hear, and know the past and carry it forward.

These stories, and the horrors I saw, helped my brain and my heart begin to understand the loss of six million souls. Our incredible Israeli tour guide, Miriam Tekuzener, said that before she visited concentration camps, the Holocaust was in black and white to her. After her first visit to a concentration camp, she realized that what took place happened in vibrant colour. It happened not so long ago, and to people in our own families. The Holocaust is a topic that is so big, many find it daunting to teach or imagine. This makes it easier to minimize or forget. A continuous concept throughout the trip was not solely focusing on the six million, but the six million and one: one person's story, one person's experience, one person's life and soul. In the words of Abel Herzberg, “There were not six million Jews murdered; there was one murder, six million times.”

In two weeks, I saw the worst of humanity: I saw the gas chamber at Auschwitz, the graveyard in Tykochin, the enormous mountain of ashes at Majdanek. I also saw and felt the best of humanity: the love of my friends and peers; the way we supported one another; how we squeezed each other's hands, and how we stood arm in arm singing song after song. I saw the best of humanity in Alex Buckman z’l. Alex showed us kindness in so many ways. He put our needs before his own, he consoled us, he gave us his hand for support. He truly believed in the strength and power of us, the Jewish youth. You couldn't help but smile at the sight of his face when he danced with all of us in shul. He is the person each and every one of us from the Coast-to-Coast group will strive to emulate in our lives. His legacy will remain with me forever.