On May 6, 2018 a group of about 450 people walked the streets of the city of Geneva from Saint-Pierre cathedral to "Place des Nations" as part of a national event called the “Marche of life” for Israel.
The city of Calvin hosted the last step of this event, which began on April 2 in Kreuzlingen on the shores of Lake Constance. The journey, from Saint-Pierre cathedral to "Place des Nations" via "Place du Grand Mézel", was intended to recall the way in which Geneva behaved towards the Jewish community. Long before becoming what it is today, a city of peace and tolerance, it locked up and pushed the Jews out of its walls.
At the head of this project, several Swiss-German evangelical associations including Abraham Services in the person of its director, Werner Woiwode. Each step (Kreuzlingen, Zürich, Bern, Payerne, Lausanne, Geneva) hosted a special event organized by a local committee.
The event in Switzerland was part of the "March of Life" movement founded by Pastor Jobst Bittner from Tübingen. The objectives of these marches can be summed up in four points: Remember, reconcile, stand, bless and repair.
Remember the traumatic events experienced by the Jewish community at the places of the march
Reconcile, denounce these events, make individual or corporate requests for forgiveness and offer the opportunity for reconciliation between the Christian communities and the Jewish community.
Stand against anti-semitism in all its shapes.
Bless and repair, do good and repair as much as possible the harm done to the Jewish community.
The last step of this 424 km journey through Switzerland started at the place of Saint-Pierre with a reminder of the heritage of the Jewish people transmitted both to Christians and to all of Western society.
"We want to particularly emphasize the heritage we have received from a particular people, the people of Israel," the speech by Christian Bussy, president of the Geneva evangelical network, sets the tone for this day.
Thereafter, David Bouillon, pastor of the Reformed Church in France explained the unclear position of the reformers with regard to the Jewish community in the 16th century. If Calvin was more tolerant than Luther, the emancipated Protestants from Rome continued to consider themselves as the people who replaced the Jewish people in the divine election.
On the "Place du Grand-Mézel", abbot Alain René Arbez denounced the establishment of the world's first “Cancel” (ghetto ndlr) in which Jewish families were strictly confined for more than 60 years between 1428 and the winter 1490, date of their expulsion from the city.
Thereafter, Rémy Burri, municipal councilor of the city of Geneva, wondered about the indifference of the Geneva state during the three and a half centuries which followed the expulsion, namely the prohibition of citizenship and city of the Jewish community in Geneva until the end of the 19th century.
The cortege then went smoothly to the "Place des Nations" where several speeches, musical interludes and testimonies followed one another, including the one from Paulette, telling how she narrowly avoided the death camps after being locked up in Drancy and several other camps in France under the Nazi regime.
The second part of the event was resolutely turned towards the future. Realizing that the mechanisms leading to the exclusion of the Jews of Geneva were the same ones that prepared the consciences not to rise to oppose the Shoah, Jobst Bittner recalled that faced with the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in all its shapes, the fight is far from over, it has not even started, according to his words.
"Anti-semitism is everywhere, it has infiltrated or will infiltrate all layers of society, in all communities. You have to flush it out, extract it, root it out. We must stand up and denounce it, ”said Grégory Lafitte, director of UN affairs for the European coalition for Israel.
It was through a common position, read by the president of the Evangelical Free Churches of Geneva, Björn Aronsson and signed by 350 people that the event ended not without emotion with a clear message
NEVER AGAIN !
Richard Pittet, coordinator of the "Marche of Life" in Geneva