From left, Brett Lichterberg, Leigh Goldstein, partially obscured, Alyssa Berlin,...

From left, Brett Lichterberg, Leigh Goldstein, partially obscured, Alyssa Berlin, partially obscured, Douglas Doltisky, Rachel Sarraf, Daniel Goldberg, and Gabriela Rozanski, talk about the holocaust as they plan their upcoming trip to Poland at the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck. (March 5, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Ed Betz

They will walk the 1.8 miles many of their ancestors marched.

They will do it in silence, along with 12,000 other teens from across the globe.

And at the end of what once was a forced death march between Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland, they will pray.

Leigh Goldstein, 16, from Dix Hills, will think of her grandmother, Lilly, an Auschwitz survivor she never met, and contemplate how her grandmother's teen years were so different from hers.

"I'll quite literally walk in the steps of my grandmother," she said. "I don't have words for it."

Goldstein and more than 50 students from North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck will travel to Poland and Israel for two weeks in April as part of March of the Living International, a 25-year-old educational program that brings teens to the two countries to recognize Holocaust Memorial Day, Israel Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day.

It begins with a somber look at Poland, one of many countries where Jewish life was suddenly upended by Nazi persecution. The program ends in Israel with a look at what can be accomplished after dire situations.

"My hope is this will seal a lifelong connection to the Jewish past and future," said Gabriela Rozanski, who teaches Holocaust and Jewish studies at North Shore Hebrew Academy and is the school's trip coordinator.

March of the Living's mission is to bring together Jewish and non-Jewish students, educate them about the Holocaust and instill in them a desire to make the world a better place, said David Machlis, the program's vice chairman and a professor at Adelphi University.

As individuals, people don't have the power to stand up against atrocities, he said, "but we do have the power to never again be bystanders."

Joining the students will be 15 to 20 liberators who freed prisoners and about 75 concentration camp survivors, including Williston Park resident Irving Roth, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz and Birkenau.

"We like to say when you listen to a witness . . . you yourself become a witness and you become a witness for your generation," Machlis said.

Time for that is dwindling. About 46,000 camp survivors are in the United States and 10 percent to 15 percent die each year, organizers said.

"We're kind of the last generation who's going to be able to hear and comprehend an actual survivor," said senior Daniel Goldberg, 17, of Roslyn.

This year's group is the biggest the school has sent in its six years of participation. Six students from Great Neck North and two from Great Neck South high schools are also going. The cost for each of the three schools is $5,000.

Rozanski has been on all six trips and each time witnessed the change in students. Many, she said, return more mature and seeking better bonds with family. She said, "Nobody comes back the same as they left."

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