Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the Catholic bishops of Europe condemned racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism, calling for a renewed human commitment to peace, and forgiveness.
“75 years have already passed since the liberation of the German concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau (27/01/1945), and this place still inspires terror,” the leaders of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Union said in a Jan. 25 statement.
“At the hour of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, let us light candles and say a prayer for people murdered in death camps of all nationalities and religions and for their relatives. Let our prayers broaden the reconciliation and brotherhood, of which the opposite is hostility, destructive conflicts and fueled misunderstandings,” the bishops encouraged.
Auschwitz-Birkenau “became a place of mass extermination of the Jewish people. In the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the German National Socialists murdered over a million Jews, tens of thousands of Poles (70-75,000), Roma (21,000), Russians (15,000) and several thousand prisoners of other nationalities,” the bishops said.
“Due to the enormity of the Jewish victims, it is the largest site of mass genocide in the world.”
The camp, located in Poland, was liberated by the Soviet Red Army in January 1945, five months before the surrender of Germany at the conclusion of European fighting in the Second World War.
“Auschwitz has become a symbol of all German concentration camps, and even of all such extermination sites,” the bishops said.
“It is like a climax of hatred against man which took its death toll in the 20th century. It is here that the thesis on the fundamental inequality of people was brought to its final limits. Here, the Nazis took the power to decide who is human and who is not. Here, euthanasia met with eugenics.”
”Auschwitz-Birkenau is a result of the system based on the ideology of national socialism, which meant trampling the dignity of man who is made in the image of God. Another totalitarianism, namely communism, acted quite similarly, also reaching a death toll of millions.”
The bishops noted that Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis all visited the site of the concentration camp.
John Paul II, who himself was Polish, “went through the camp gate that bears the inscription ‘Arbeit macht frei,’ spent a moment in Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe’s death cell and prayed in the courtyard of block No.11 where prisoners were shot. Then he went to Brzezinka, and there he celebrated Holy Mass,” they said.
The bishops said the anniversary of its liberation “obliges us to expressly fight against all acts that trample on human dignity: racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.”
“On this anniversary, we appeal to the modern world for reconciliation and peace, for respect for each nation’s right to exist and to freedom, to independence, to maintain its own culture. We cannot allow the truth to be ignored or manipulated for immediate political needs. This appeal is extremely important now, for – despite the dramatic experience of the past – the world in which we live is still exposed to new threats and new manifestations of violence.”
“Cruel wars, genocide, persecution, and different forms of fanaticism are still taking place, although history teaches us that violence never leads to peace but, on the contrary, breeds more violence and death,” they added.
“May the power of Christ’s love prevail in us,” the bishops’ statement concluded.
(Source: Catholic News Agency, CNA)