The Pope at Auschwitz: A Missed Opportunity
Update: In reflections three days after his journey to Poland, Pope Benedict XVI clarified his remarks, acknowledging the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. More
New York, NY, May 30, 2006 …The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today said it is deeply troubled by Pope Benedict XVI's failure to explicitly address the vicious anti-Semitism that led to the murder of more than 1.5 million Jews on the ground where he stood in Auschwitz.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, and a Holocaust survivor, issued the following statement:
While Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Auschwitz represents a vital link with the historic breakthroughs in Catholic-Jewish relations achieved by Pope John Paul II, we are deeply troubled by the Pontiff's failure to explicitly address the vicious anti-Semitism that led to the murder of more than 1.5 million Jews on the ground where he stood.
Standing at the crematoria, the world's largest Jewish cemetery, the Pope uttered not one word about anti-Semitism; not one explicit acknowledgement of Jewish lives vanquished simply because they were Jews. He chose rather to single out Father Maximilian Kolbe, who edited an anti-Semitic Catholic publication and Edith Stein, a Jew who converted to Catholicism, both of whom died at Auschwitz.
What the Pope did at Auschwitz was to marginalize the distinctly Jewish character of what took place at Auschwitz. While we recognize the tragedy that millions of Christians and others died at the hands of the Nazis, the Shoah cannot be universalized. Hitler's goal was to destroy European Jewry.
The Nazi regime was not simply a "ring of criminals [who] rose to power by false promises of future greatness…" but part of a people whose attitude and treatment of the Jews was shaped by centuries of Christian anti-Judaism which became political anti-Semitism.
By going to Poland, the Pope sought to recognize what the Nazis did on Polish soil. But Auschwitz was the place for the Pope to unequivocally recognize what the Nazis did to European Jewry. We had hoped for more, and the world deserved a simpler and more direct lesson from this Pastor and Preacher.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.