(January 20, 2020 / JNS) During a private audience on Monday of 54 international leadership delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center on the 78th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee Conference in 1942 that sealed the fate of European Jewry, as well as on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Pope Francis warned the world, “If we lose our memory, we destroy our future.”
“May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, be still and to remember,” he added. “We need to do this lest we become indifferent.”
Responding to the speech of Simon Wiesenthal Center dean and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier, Francis went on to denounce “a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism. I will never tire of firmly condemning every form of anti-Semitism.”
Francis concluded his remarks recalling the Vatican’s historic Nostra Aetate in 1965 that pointed out the shared “rich spiritual patrimony” of Judaism and Christianity. He urged members of both faiths to work together and invoked the book of Exodus to “remember the past and have compassion on those who suffer, and in this way till the soil of fraternity.”
In his speech, Hier said, “Sadly, our visit today comes at a time when anti-Semitism and bigotry have again taken center stage threatening our world and the future of humankind.”
“It was on this very day, January 20th, some 78 years ago where 14 people sat around the table in Wannsee to plot the ‘Final Solution,’ a code word that would lead to the extermination of 6 million Jews,” he continued. “Who could have imagined that a mere eight decades later, we would again witness another worldwide epidemic of anti-Semitism and hate. That is our dilemma, here we are in 2020—anti-Semitism and bigotry are present everywhere. In the heart of our democracies in London, Paris, in Berlin, in the parliaments and here in Rome, where an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor needs police protection to go shopping.”
Hier also remarked that “this hate has now crossed the Atlantic and infected America’s cities, and her prestigious learning centers … even in the halls of Congress and the United Nations.”
“Worse, reminiscent of the Holocaust years, religious Jews identified by their skull caps or by their beards, are particularly vulnerable, even when they light their Hanukkah candles in the privacy of their home in Monsey, N.Y.,” he said, referring to the Dec. 28 machete attack at a home and prayer hall known as Rabbi Rottenberg’s Shul, injuring five of the 100 or so celebrants at a holiday candle-lighting party.
Turning his attention to the Holocaust-denying Iranian regime and to the world’s indifference to the persecution of Christians, Hier asked: “How can we explain that 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the leaders and mullahs of Iran continue to have the audacity to publicly deny that there ever was a Holocaust? Yet they still receive VIP treatment when visiting almost every country in the world.
“And why is the world and the U.N. silent when they know that Hezbollah has stored thousands of rockets and missile-launchers near hospitals and schools, deliberately putting their children in harm’s way?
“And when they know Christians in Kenya and Nigeria are being targeted and beheaded in bloody terrorist attacks … when Lebanese Christians, Muslims and their Jewish neighbors in northern Israel are threatened by Iran’s reach and threatened by an uncaring world?
“We would be remiss if we did not publicly express our solidarity with all of these endangered communities.”
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