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August 4, 2016 7:00 am

Chief Rabbi of Poland: Memory of World’s Inaction During Holocaust Should Spur Jews to Help Today’s Persecuted Christians

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Poland’s chief rabbi said the world’s inaction during the Holocaust should serve as a reminder to Jews to help Christians suffering persecution at the hands of jihadists, the Catholic publication Crux reported on Wednesday.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich — who said this in the wake of Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau last week — added, “There are many more attacks on Christians — just because they are Christians — than on Jews,” who have a 2,000-year history of persecution.

“What it means to me is that the pain that we Jews still feel because of the overwhelming silence of the world — not everyone but the majority were silent — during the Shoah [Holocaust], means that we have to be the first ones to step up to the place,” he said. “We have to be the first ones to yell and scream and say, ‘No.’”

On Wednesday, recounting his visit to Auschwitz, Pope Francis told pilgrims at the Vatican that while touring the Nazi death camp he reflected on today’s world, which he described as being “sick with cruelty, violence and suffering,” the UK’s Daily Mail reported.

Beginning his tour of Auschwitz, as he slowly walked through the camp’s notorious gates bearing the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” — “work sets you free” — the Pope said, “In that great silence I prayed for all the victims of violence and war.” 

Visiting the museum and memorial at Auschwitz helped him internalize “more than ever the value of memory,” he said, adding that history serves as a “warning and responsibility for today and tomorrow.”

Prior to the Pope’s visit, a prominent American rabbi called on the pontiff to remove a Catholic church from the site of the “largest cemetery in the world.”

As reported by The Algemeiner, Avi Weiss — founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and national president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-AMCHA — sent a letter to Pope Francis protesting the presence of the Parish Church of Brzezinka at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Poland.

Weiss has been an outspoken critic of the presence of two Catholic institutions set up at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1984, Carmelite nuns formed a convent in the building at Auschwitz in which the Nazis stored the deadly Zyklon B poison that was used to gas Jews to death. Around the same time, the local Catholic community founded a church in Birkenau at the site of Nazi command headquarters. The convent was eventually shut down in 1993.

Pope Francis became the third pontiff to visit the Nazi death camp, which claimed the lives of over 1.1 million Jews. 

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  • The problematic silence isn’t just the silence DURING the Shoah, it’s the silence about many of the most important factors in that monstrous tragedy. I was so devoted to the R.C. church in the first third of my life that I became one of its priests, even bearing the name of “Pius” for a time.
    But I have devoted the last third to exposing the horrendous role this institution has played in MANY of history’s most tragic events, not the least of which is the persecution of the Jews over 17 centuries, culminating in “the final solution” – perpetrated by ROMAN CATHOLICS, and their close cousins, LUTHERANS, etc., NOT by atheists or pagans, or whatever, as Christians would have the world believe!- See my http://JesusWouldBeFurious.Org/MoralRelativism-RC-Style.html .

  • Paul

    One should mention how much work the Polish Government in exile and Jan Karski did in order to bring information about German atrocities and Holocaust to the Allied countries and the world. This truth was something that western governments didn’t want to acknowledge.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    A continuing dialogue between Christians and Jews based on memory is definitely a positive manner to approach the reality which all of us are facing nowadays.

  • Lillian

    Thank you, Lea Speyer, for your fine writing.