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Pope: Remember how the Holocaust began

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Pope Francis touches the death wall at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, in this 29 July 2016, file photo. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

Pope warns that ideology ended in destruction

Remembering the Holocaust and its victims is not only an act of solidarity but also serves as a warning to humanity that such horrors could happen again, Pope Francis said.

Before concluding his weekly general audience on 27 January, the pope marked the observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day by calling on the world to “remember the Shoah” and to “be aware of how this path of death began, this path of extermination, of brutality”.

“To remember also means to be careful because these things can happen again, starting with ideological proposals to save a people and ending up destroying a people and humanity,” he said.

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Rabbi Shaul Nekrich takes part in a ceremony to complete the historic Sulzbach Torah Scroll from 1792 on the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz death camp, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Berlin 27 January, 2021. PHOTO: CNS/Odd Andersen, pool via Reuters

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed around the world on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of the former German Nazi Concentration (and Extermination) camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Oswiecim, Poland.

Operated from 1940 to 1945, Auschwitz was Nazi Germany’s largest camp and consisted of three parts: Auschwitz I, where many were imprisoned and murdered; the Birkenau extermination camp — also known as Auschwitz II — and Auschwitz III (Auschwitz-Monowitz), an area of auxiliary camps that included several factories.

“To remember also means to be careful because these things can happen again, starting with ideological proposals to save a people and ending up destroying a people and humanity” – Pope Francis

Beginning in 1942, Auschwitz became the site of the mass extermination of more than 1 million Jews, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and thousands of Polish citizens. Nazi Germany’s systematic persecution and genocide led to the deaths of 6 million Jews in Europe.

Commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, the pope said the act of remembering is “an expression of humanity” and “sign of civility.” Remembering “is a condition for a better future of peace and fraternity,” he said.

A sign and fence are pictured at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, 1 November, 2017. PHOTO: CNS/Markus Nowak, KNA

Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, issued a similar warning in her statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Today, as hateful voices continue to rise, denying or distorting the implacable reality of these facts, we have a universal responsibility to remember each and every individual whom the Nazis sought to erase from the face of the earth,” Azoulay said.

The day, she added, is also time to reflect “upon the choices of the individuals and governments that allowed this genocide to unfold”. “It is also a call for vigilance and for action, to address the root causes of hatred and prevent future atrocities from happening,” she said.

“industrial murder of the Jews…began with hate speech, conspiracy myths and social exclusion” – Bishop Bätzing

In Germany, Catholic bishops marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a call for decisive action against all forms of anti-Semitism. “The memory of the Holocaust fills me with profound sorrow but also with shame because so many remained silent at the time,” the president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, wrote on Twitter and Facebook.

He called on all people to join together to courageously oppose “anti-Jewish prejudice, conspiracy myths and every form of hatred in everyday life, at school or among friends.”

The “industrial murder of the Jews” had been at the end of a path “that began with hate speech, conspiracy myths and social exclusion. We must never go down that path again”.

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