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Pope denounces Holocaust ‘indifference’ amid Polish uproar

Pope Francis walks through a gate with the words "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free) at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on July 29, 2016. Photo by Kacper Pempel/Reuters

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis said Monday (Jan. 29) that countries have a responsibility to fight anti-Semitism and the “virus of indifference” that threatens to erase the memory of the Holocaust.

Francis’ comments to an international conference on anti-Semitism came as the largely Roman Catholic Poland considers legislation that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust. The proposed legislation has sparked an outcry in Israel.

Francis didn’t mention the dispute but he did speak of his 2016 visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in German-occupied Poland, saying he remembered “the roar of the deafening silence” that left room for only tears, prayer and requests for forgiveness.

He called for Christians and Jews to build a “common memory” of the Holocaust, saying “it is our responsibility to hand it on in a dignified way to young generations.”

“The enemy against which we fight is not only hatred in all of its forms, but even more fundamentally indifference, for it is indifference that paralyzes and impedes us from doing what is right even when we know that it is right,” he said.

The anti-Semitism conference, hosted by the Italian foreign ministry in cooperation with the OSCE and Italy’s Jewish communities, was timed to correspond to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On the eve of the commemoration, Poland’s lower house parliament approved a bill calling for prison time for referring to “Polish death camps” and criminalizes the mention of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

Many Poles believe such phrasing implies that Poles had a role in running the camps. But critics worry it could be used to stifle research and debate on topics that are anathema to Poland’s nationalistic authorities, particularly the painful issue of Poles who blackmailed Jews or denounced them to the Nazis during the war.

In his remarks, Francis called for a “culture of responsibility” among nations to establish an “alliance against indifference” about the Holocaust.

“We need urgently to educate young generations to be actively involved in the struggle against hatred and discrimination, but also in overcoming conflicting positions in the past, and never grow tired of seeking out the other,” he said.

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The Associated Press

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  • What is needed in regard to the Holocaust is neither blame nor the whitewashing of history, but the recognition that the conditions that allowed it to happen could well occur again in our times.

    Wherever there are demagogues exploiting the anger and fear of the people and finding easy scapegoats to blame problems on, there will always be the danger of that kind of evil rising up again. And don’t for a moment fool yourself into thinking it could only happen in Europe.

  • The Christian Church – there is plenty oif antisemitism in Protestant, Ana-baptist, Orthodox churches. All are inheritors of the anti-Judiasm espoused in the Gospels and the early church fathers and mothers. At least Roman Catholocism has been facing up to their part – others not so much – especially “Evangelicals” and their white nationalism.

  • That’s very true except in Poland. Does it also outlaw discussing how many Jews were killed by Poles after the Holocaust ended?

  • Jan T Gross, Fear: Antisemitism in Poland After Auschwitz. He is or was a history professor at Princeton. He also wrote about the Jebwabne massacre of Jews by Poles, but I think that it was during the Holocaust.

  • Gross’ book isn’t without criticism – even by noted Jewish historians and scholars.

    ” Marek Edelman, a Jewish leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
    against the Nazis, responded to the book by stating that postwar
    violence against Jews was “not about anti-Semitism… Murdering Jews was
    pure banditry, and I wouldn’t explain it as anti-Semitism… It was
    contempt for man, for human life, plain meanness. A bandit doesn’t
    attack someone who is stronger, like military troops, but where he sees
    weakness.” [17] ” Wikipedia

    As I commented earlier – let’s put the blame for antisemitism where it began – The Roman Catholic Church.

  • It wasn’t pure banditry. They attacked Jews because they believed Jews were rich. They thought that Jews had secret stashes of money even if they seemed poor on the surface. That is antisemitism. You don’t have to hate Jews to be antisemitic. You have to believe antisemitic tropes are true and one of those tropes has to do with Jews and money.

  • That is true, but other curches haven’t even done that. Pope Francis get points for saying that Jews don’t need to convert and Catholics should not proselytize to Jews.

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