Jewish leaders, survivors welcome pope’s visit to Nazi death camps


By Jonathan Luxmoore
Catholic News Service (

WARSAW, Poland – Jewish leaders and Holocaust survivors welcomed Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, although some said they thought his remarks were problematic.

The Jewish co-chairman of Poland’s Council for Christians and Jews, Stanislaw Krajewski, said Pope Benedict’s May 28 visit had provided an “exceptional occasion” to say “important things which would be heard not just in Poland, but throughout the world.” He praised the pope for his quotation from Psalm 44 that Jews were being killed and marked “as sheep to be slaughtered.”

“It’s very important he said the murder of Jews was intended to kill God himself,” Krajewski told Catholic News Service. “This is still true today, at a time when Jewish life is being devalued.”

Poland’s former foreign minister, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, said he believed Pope Benedict’s visit would confirm the church’s previous contributions to Polish-German reconciliation. Bartoszewski, who earlier welcomed the pope at the camp’s death block, said he recalled feeling “powerless and degraded” when, as a prisoner, he watched executions.

“It would have been beyond my imagination that two popes would come here — first a Pole, then a German,” Bartoszewski said, referring to Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to the camp. “It’s overwhelmingly symbolic that a German pope from Bavaria has now been here, and I think the whole world understands this.”