"The Footprint" - a coverage by Zuzana Piussi and Vít Janeček inspired by the march from Auschwitz to Žilina in August 2014

Radical religious, nationalistic or ideological “inspiration” seems to stem from one and the same source. The problem is that it is more than just some emotional state of mind. Underneath there are often very specific personal, economic or other interests, issues of power, peculiar personality traits. It is important to discern and expose them.

We all know that there is no good without evil, no happiness without suffering, no love without hatred. Everybody faces challenges and has to make decisions. But once we look into the faces and hear the words of the “blood and soil” people, we awaken to the fact that there is no other way but confrontation. Confrontation by a radical word, a text, a film, a picture, a song, a poem, public disputation and personal engagement.

It is true that the democratic voting mechanism provides a platform where conflicting persuasions, interests, values, needs, wishes, illusions and prejudices of different citizens can meet and compete. But sometimes we tend to forget that freedom cannot be taken for granted and that a public intellectual is not a know-it-all who can say whatever he wants with no personal responsibility, sharing no burden of risk.

Personal responsibility and the burden of risk are born in the cold light of day, in blood, sweat and tears, by painstaking efforts. The Vrba-Wetzler Memorial establishes a tradition of marches from Auschwitz to Žilina. Let us take it as an opportunity to prepare for that time when we will no longer be able to avoid the risks by careful manoeuvring, when we will have to stand up and make the choices that strong, free people do.


Fedor Gál (Prague, janury 2015)