We repudiate racism, fanaticism and extremism. The Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel at the Memorial.
“At this place of crimes committed by Nazi Germans, we declare our commitment to the sanctity of human life. We repudiate racism, fanaticism and extremism, especially when the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of religion”– we read in the declaration of the members of The Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel signed after a visit to the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum. November 2, 30 religious leaders from Israel visited the site of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz.
The delegation consisted of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilus III; the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa; the Greek-Catholic Archbishop, Georges Bacouni; and the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani among others. Others who visited Poland include chief rabbi of Kiriyat Malakhi Moshe Pinto; chief rabbi of Dimona Icchak Elefant; Rabbi David Rosen; Druze sheikh, Mowafaq Tarif; and two Sunni imams from Galilee, among others.
The guests were greeted are the Memorial by the director of the Auschwitz Museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński. ‘The Memorial is always a difficult challenge for us humans, because it compels us to ask unspeakably difficult questions about man. Nevertheless, we ask ourselves these questions today in the face of an increasingly complex world. This joint visit should be a moment of reflection on ourselves and on our religious communities,’ he said.
During the visit, the guests were accompanied by Minister Wojciech Kolarski from the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland and the Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari. ‘Every visit to Auschwitz has great significance, because here we experience tragedy in apocalyptic dimensions. Everyone who comes here makes contact with immeasurable evil. For religious leaders from Israel, the land that is seeking peace, a visit here is especially important, because you come to a place where the machine of the Holocaust brought here by the German Third Reich destroyed peace and contributed to the death of millions,’ said minister Wojciech Kolarski.
‘The tour of Auschwitz was the main objective of the visit of the Council members to Poland. It is very important because it is the most symbolic place, from which we can send out the message of peace between different religions. We are probably at the place where man fell to the very bottom, hence, it is appropriate to send out the call for a positive change from here,’ said Anna Azari, the Ambassador of Israel.
The delegation visited a large part of the museum exhibition. They saw, among others, Block 4 dedicated to the extermination of Jew, where German photographs documenting the arrival of the transport of Jews from Hungary are presented, a model gas chamber and crematorium II from Birkenau, empty cans of Zyklon B, as well as human hair cut off from murdered victims, among others. In Block 5, the guests saw personal belongings of the victims that were found in the warehouses after the liberation of the camp. They include shoes, suitcases, tallits, glasses, brushes or kitchen utensils. The delegation also visited the building of the first gas chamber and crematorium at Auschwitz I.
At the Death Wall in the courtyard of Block 11, where the executions were carried out by shooting, the members of the Council laid a wreath, paying homage to all the victims of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp.
In the second part of the visit, the guests visited the Auschwitz II-Birkenau. They walked along the railway ramp, on which German doctors carried out the selection of the Jews. They also saw the ruins of gas chamber and crematorium II. A wreath was laid at the monument commemorating the victims of the camp.
After the visit to the Auschwitz Memorial, the participants signed a joint declaration on peace in the world. “We believe that the Creator who rules the world in kindness and grace requires us to live in peace and show respect to all people” - wrote the religious leaders.
„As the leaders of the official religious communities in Israel, we have decided to embark together on a historic visit to Poland, and to the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This visit is meant to honour the memory of millions of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust, and to express the determination of the leaders of the religious communities in Israel to do everything in their power to prevent the recurrence of such atrocities. We call on all world leaders to act, in their countries and through the United Nations, to act with unwavering resoluteness against antisemitism, hatred of the other, which once again plague contemporary society” – we read.
„Here, in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the most horrific crimes against humanity in history and the symbol of ultimate evil, where Nazi Germany perpetrated the murder of millions of Jews and others - men, women and children -, we declare our commitment to the sanctity of human life. We repudiate racism, fanaticism and extremism, particularly when these are committed, allegedly in the name of religion and in so doing desecrate religion” – says the declaration.
The Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel called for an end to war and a prayer for peace in keeping with the vision of the prophets: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)”
In previous years, meetings of members of the Council were held in Israel, Paris, the Vatican and Assisi. The motto of the visit in Poland was: “Acceptance of the other - education of future generations."