Auschwitz in the Shadow of the Cross

Published: 1998-08-23

A rather remarkable international incident occurred in 1984 which would draw into question the entire issue of Auschwitz and victimization as the attention of the world became riveted on Poland, when a group of Carmelite nuns announced their decision to construct a convent on the grounds of the former concentration camp. The area chosen for the convent was located adjacent to the former site of Auschwitz I, where many Poles and Russians had been incarcerated and perished in prodigious numbers. When the nuns announced their intention to offer prayers and penance on behalf of the dead, Jewish organizations voiced their disapproval by launching an international protest.

Media accounts alleged that the building chosen to serve as the site of the convent, the Theatergebäude [old theater building] located in Auschwitz I, had once been used to store not only the belongings of those who were gassed, but also to stockpile canisters of Zyklon B, the fumigant alleged to have been used as a homicidal agent in Birkenau, some 4 miles distant. According to Polish historian Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, these accusations were completely unfounded. Additionally, commentators complained that Polish authorities and the Church had not consulted with the Jewish community before embarking upon plans to construct a convent on the site. However, it was never satisfactorily explained as to why they should, any more than Jewish authorities would agree to consult with the Church if they planned to erect a small memorial temple on the site of Birkenau. Nevertheless, the decision to construct a convent along the perimeter of Auschwitz prompted Edgar Bronfman, the president of the World Jewish Congress, to visit Poland's Minister for religious affairs in December, 1985.

The intentions of the beleaguered nuns were noble and justified, but Jews took umbrage over what they considered to be trespassing on their privileged territory, regardless of the fact that the convent was located on the grounds of Auschwitz I and not Birkenau, the latter serving as that part of the camp where Jews and gypsies had been primarily incarcerated.

Bronfman's visit preceded the so-called Geneva agreement, when Church authorities knuckled under to Jewish demands to relocate the convent. During the course of this conference, Theo Klein, president of the council of Jews in France, ominously declared to the arriving Catholic delegation that only two options were open to them: "to support the Carmelites or continue the dialogue with the Jews." "Dialogue" in this instance meaning full acquiescence to unilateral Jewish demands.

Under intense pressure from the World Jewish Congress and the media, the Catholic delegation acquiesced to Jewish demands and agreed to relocate the convent. However, due to financial and other constraints, the convent remained where it was for another two years. During the course of a visit to the Auschwitz Museum by noted Jewish activist, Serge Klarsfeld, on 23 March, 1988, he noted with unconcealed irritation that the convent had still not been vacated. The trip had been sponsored by the ubiquitous World Jewish Congress, and Klarsfeld had been accompanied by 140 schoolchildren. It was later claimed that the ostensible reason for the visit was educational in nature, but at the same time a delegation requested an audience with the Mother Superior's deputy, inquiring why the convent had not been relocated.

After she informed the delegates that she had not been informed of any intentions to relocate the convent any time soon, Jewish tempers flared.

In late December, 1988, Jewish officials convened in Paris to discuss the Church's perceived reluctance to relocate the convent. Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, chairman of the American branch of the World Jewish Congress, complained that the failure constituted a serious breach of the Geneva agreement, while Rabbi Zvi Zakheim, representing the Orthodox Jewish faction of the World Jewish Congress, shouted irritably, "I told you not to run to the goyim."

The President of the World Jewish Congress, Edgar Bronfman, complained that "it is not only a matter of the Auschwitz convent, but the broader implications of historical revisionism in which the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the murder of the Jewish people is being suppressed."

Referring to the Polish episcopate as "anti-Semitic," Dr. Gerhard Riegner, a representative of the World Jewish Congress, threatened to suspend all dialogue between world Jewry and the Vatican until such time as the nuns were removed from the convent.

Tensions continued to escalate between the World Jewish Congress and Catholic officials, whom the Jews accused of dragging their feet.

On 30 May 1989, 300 women representing the Women's International Zionist Organization staged a boisterous demonstration in front of the convent, brandishing inflammatory placards, waving Israeli flags and shouting provocative slogans.

In the wake of numerous unpleasant incidents provoked by unidentified hostile sources outside the convent, the nuns began to receive anonymous death threats. Fearing for their safety, the nuns installed security locks at the gate to the convent, in order to discourage intruders.

Pope John Paul II's attempt to offset Jewish criticism by beatifying Edith Stein, [As of 1998, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross] turned out to be a colossal blunder, for the Church failed to apprehend that for Orthodox Jews, Edith Stein ceased to exist the moment she converted to Roman Catholicism. Stein has been variously described as a Jewish philosopher, convert to the Catholic faith, Carmelite nun, and Auschwitz martyr, but in the eyes of Orthodox Jews, Edith Stein was in fact dead before she ever set foot in Auschwitz.

On 14 July 1989, a rather obstreperous New York City Rabbi, Avraham Weiss, undertook preparations to provoke an international incident. Accompanied by a six-man team of like-minded supporters, Weiss and his band of religious zealots set off for Poland to trigger a confrontation with the unsuspecting, defenseless nuns.

Upon arriving at Auschwitz, the trespassers, sporting striped concentration camp uniforms, clambered over the fence, illegally breaking and entering, and began banging loudly on the doors and windows of the convent, shouting at the occupants inside. Accounts vary as to what happened next, but the premeditated scheme to harass the terrified nuns was so effective that a group of alarmed Polish workers deemed it advisable to rush to the nuns' assistance and dislodge the trespassers by dousing them with pails of water and physically escorting them from the premises.

Two days later, Weiss and his cohorts demonstrated in front of the Archbishop's residence in Cracow, tacking the following message to the front door:

"Dear Cardinal Macharski, we come in peace but at the same time we are not afraid… As proud Jews we announce: stop praying for the Jews who were killed in the Shoah, let them rest in peace as Jews."

For the Vice-Chancellor of the Cracow Curia, Father Jan Dyduch, asseverations of peaceful intentions by the protestors rang hollow. Dyduch dryly pointed out that the "local population was outraged by the behavior of the protesters, "who hurled abuse at the sisters, Poles, and the Church."

Later that month, Jewish groups continued to exacerbate the problem when 100 Jews representing the Belgian Students Union and the World Jewish Congress paraded around the outside perimeter of Auschwitz I, blowing shofars in a symbolic gesture to bring down the walls of the convent.

The local inhabitants of Oswiecim organized a counter-demonstration during which they vented their frustration and anger over what they felt was Jewish interference in Polish affairs. Following is a representative sampling of typical comments expressed by the local citizenry at the time the events took place:

"If you went to their country and entered a synagogue without a hat and carried on the way they do here they'd kill you on the spot, no questions asked."

"That television crew is probably Jewish too. Why don't they show what they do at home? They murder just like Hitler, they're fighting a war."

"The sisters pray for everyone the Germans killed in the camps. For the scabs too. What are they after here?"

In fact, the debate surrounding the negative Jewish response to Christian prayer at Auschwitz was perplexing to Christians of all persuasions. Few Christians were able to understand the vehemence in which Jews generally responded to Christian prayers.

In this connection, the allocutions of Pope John Paul II, who probably did more than any other pope in modern times to foster dialogue and improved relations with world Jewry, were literally suffused with loftily expressed sentiments such as "reconciliation, mutual forgiveness for past wrongs," even going so far as to refer to Jews as "our elder brothers in the faith," but as author Wladyslaw Bartoszewski points out,

"… few Jews regard Christianity as a religion which shares their heritage."

Underscoring the fundamental differences in Christian and Jewish perceptions was London Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen, who described the Pope's attempt to draw comparisons between Christianity and Judaism as "particularly offensive." Most vexing to Cohen was the Pope's statement that a new covenant had been formed between Christians and God as a result of the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which Rabbi Cohen viewed in the aftermath of the Holocaust as, "an obscenity and an insult of the greatest proportions."

Perhaps most illuminating of all were the comments of the Mother Superior of the Carmelite convent, Sister Teresa who, as a child, had risked her life in order to provide food to starving Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. In an interview granted to Francis Winarz, a retired United States Air Force officer of Polish descent, Sister Teresa expressed astonishment and perplexity as to why Jews reacted so violently to the presence of a convent since "nuns also offered prayers for those victims of Auschwitz who were Jewish."

Sister Teresa "regretted the fact that the Jews were creating such a problem for Poland at a time when the country was trying to become democratic again. She resented accusations of Polish anti-Semitism and said, 'Israel receives three billion dollars from the United States only because it is building a democratic country; however the daily press reports in detail how they are mistreating the Arabs. Greater anti-Semites are hard to find.'"

In conclusion, Sister Teresa "described the post-war communist regime in Poland as being totally dominated by the Jews who had devastated the country, closed the Churches, and attempted to introduce atheism into Poland."

Alan Dershowitz typically shrugged the nun's comments off by smearing her as an "unreconstructed anti-Semite," who ought to "pray for her own bigoted soul."

Completely lost to Christian sensibilities was the simple, but discomforting fact that Orthodox Jewry abhors prayers offered up to Jesus Christ, whose Christian Churches, altars, hagiography and pantheon of saints and martyrs constitute rank idolatry, no more efficacious than prayers to Zeus, Athena, Baal, Buddha, or any other mere human being with pretensions to divinity.

Aside from Jewry's political objections to the presence of a convent on the perimeter of Auschwitz, their theological aversion was of paramount importance and a motivating factor in their resolve to evict the nuns from the premises.

In the aftermath of the Weiss incident, many Jewish commentators took full advantage of the opportunity to attack not only the Catholic Church, but the people of Poland as well. Inevitably, and in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the prevailing verdict of the media was predictable: the ouster of the invaders constituted an act of "anti-Semitism."

Newspapers in Poland viewed the incident in a different light and referred to the New York Jews responsible for breaking and entering the convent grounds as "aggressors," guilty of "organized provocation" who carried placards and shouted hostile demands to the nuns to vacate the premises forthwith.

Peter Simple, a journalist writing for the Daily Telegraph, joined in with the chorus of Weiss' critics and opined:

"Some of the utterances of these Jewish activists are terrifying in their fanaticism and unappeasable thirst for vengeance. The protests against the nuns will continue until they are driven out, says Mr. Eli Steinberg of the World Jewish Congress in New York… these Jewish fanatics, at their most extreme, seem almost to have persuaded themselves that Jews were the only people who were massacred in the Second World War."

Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, archbishop of Krakow, was in evident agreement with the above assessment, and issued a statement in which he described the events surrounding the escalating controversy as a "violent campaign of accusations and defamation, and offensive – not only verbal – aggression, which echoed up to Auschwitz..."

Macharski attributed singular responsibility for inciting and escalating the confrontation to "certain Western Jewish circles," – an obvious allusion to Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the ubiquitous World Jewish Congress.

Jewish sources countered by referring to the convent as an unwelcome "intrusion" into what they regarded to be a strictly Jewish site, since "most camp victims were Jewish and Auschwitz is the most symbolic site of the Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed."

The controversy reached a bitter climax when Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Roman Catholic primate of Poland, referred to the illegal breaking and entry as "an offense to all Poles and a threat to Polish sovereignty."

Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, responded to Cardinal Glemp's statement by crudely remarking that Poles "suck (anti-Semitism) in their mother's milk."

In a highly controversial homily delivered on 26 August, 1989, at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czêstochowa, Cardinal Glemp accused Jews of complicity in inducing Polish peasants to drink, of propagating communism and collaboration with the Nazis. Jewish tempers flared when he complained of Jewish control over the mass media to foment anti-Polish sentiment.

Specifically referring to the events that prompted the international furor, Cardinal Glemp stated:

"Recently, a squad of seven Jews from New York attacked the convent in Auschwitz. Admittedly the sisters were not killed nor was the convent destroyed because they were restrained - but do not designate them heroes. ... Let us differentiate between Oswiecim-Auschwitz where mainly Poles and people of other nations perished, from Brzezinka-Birkenau a few kilometers apart where most of the victims were Jews. Let us differentiate next between the secular and the theological levels. Let the new doctrine on the presence or absence of God at the place of sacrifice be explained and clear to all those believing in God, and let it not become a political tool in people's hands, particularly of non-believers."

The Cardinal's legitimate concerns for the safety of the nuns at the hands of unknown and unpredictable assailants was fully justified, as was the apprehension of the protestors, thereby preempting any possible eruption of violence directed against the nuns or unforeseeable acts of vandalism to the convent. Although the participants in the protest later maintained that their intentions had been entirely peaceful, it was impossible for the Polish workers to divine those thoughts.

Dissatisfied critics with a chip on their shoulder accused the Cardinal of plotting to restore the primacy of the Catholic Church in Poland and carped about his opposition to the Geneva agreement signed in 1986 and 1987 by Jews and members of the Catholic clergy in respect to relocating the Carmelite convent. These critics complained quite unjustifiably that the convent violated the United Nations declaration designating Auschwitz as an "international monument to martyrdom," thus begging the question: Are the estimated numbers of non-Jewish dead at Auschwitz less entitled to claim the status of "martyrs" than Jews?

While these questions were being debated in the world press, Avraham Weiss filed a lawsuit in Poland, but the court ruled that the Cardinal had been fully justified to speak in defense of the sisters, whose rights had been violated by the rabbi's illegal raid on the convent. Dissatisfied with the verdict, Weiss filed another lawsuit for slander in New York after consulting with controversial attorney Alan Dershowitz, in an attempt to "investigate what legal steps could be taken against Glemp for his remarks." Catholic sources viewed Weiss' response as a premeditated provocation aimed at harassing the prelate. Dershowitz, on the other hand, accused the Polish court of issuing a "very one-sided opinion" and applying a "double standard for a cardinal."

When the Cardinal subsequently visited the United States, Weiss repeatedly attempted to serve legal notice of the suit, but ultimately failed to convince the court that the process servers had acted in compliance with the law.

The case was heard by Judge Patterson, who concluded after a daylong hearing in a Manhattan courtroom that Rabbi Weiss' two process servers – Aline Frisch and Renee Lewis – had made intentionally false statements to the court. Alan Dershowitz also earned a stern rebuke from the judge, who pointed out inconsistencies in his statements to the court and comments published in his autobiography, "Chutzpah."

In an amazing act of "Chutzpah," Dershowitz mumbled threats that the Cardinal would be sued if and when he ever returned to the United States unless he issued an apology to Weiss for harassing him.

During the course of a press interview conducted in Albany, New York, Rabbi Weiss, apparently acting in concert with his attorney, irresponsibly accused the Vatican of constructing the convent at Auschwitz as part of a "hidden agenda" to "Christianize" the "Holocaust," while Dershowitz chimed in by referring to the Cardinal as "a bigot."

David Scott, a journalist writing for the Catholic Weekly, "Our Sunday Visitor," was quick to perceive the contrast between Christians and Jews on the subject of Cardinal Glemp, writing,

"Bishop Hubbard of Albany, like other American Church leaders, welcomed Cardinal Glemp as the courageous leader of his country's opposition to "godless communism" and Poland's triumph over "tyranny and oppression."

By way of contrast, Scott drew attention to the fact that "Seymour Reich resigned as head of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations because of these divisions. He said that Jewish leaders should not meet with the cardinal until he retracted his "anti-Semitic slurs" and "apologizes."

After extensive "dialogue" sessions with Jews and Catholic prelates, Cardinal Glemp caved in under pressure and was induced to issue a statement contrary to his own knowledge and experience. An officially released announcement resulting from these meetings blithely revealed that the Cardinal's comments "were in many aspects based on mistaken information." Curiously, no other information by way of explanation was ever forthcoming, other than a rather oblique reference in the 1991 American Jewish Yearbook, which implied that the Cardinal "may have been influenced by the involvement of a West German businessman, Zygmund Nissenbaum, who met with Glemp in mid-September and reportedly offered to help pay to relocate the convent."

Glemp was subsequently called to the Vatican and instructed to relocate the convent outside the precincts of Auschwitz. Roma locuta, causa finita. Rome has spoken, end of discussion. The media blitz had been successful.

Cardinal Glemp's subsequent humiliation and concession under pressure only temporarily smoothed over the problem of strained Polish-Jewish-Catholic relations and the Auschwitz controversy would re-erupt in 1995, when a group of Polish boy scouts innocently planted a cross on the grounds of Auschwitz I. Once again, the usual Jewish groups surged to the forefront, prompting shrill tirades in the world press.

An article appearing in the National Review deigned to state:

"… Jewish opinion sees Auschwitz in all its terrible ambiguity, as a specifically Jewish place where a Catholic presence would be as jarring as a yeshiva at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa."

The attempt to force a comparison between Auschwitz and the Shrine of Czestochowa was inappropriate, irreverent and irrelevant, for the simple reason that the Shrine never served as a concentration camp. Neither did the ill-conceived analogy take into consideration the estimated three million Poles who perished during the Second World War, nor those people of Polish nationality who succumbed in Auschwitz.

In describing the Jews as the "principal martyrs" in Auschwitz, the National Review and kindred publications opened a Pandora's box of statistical errors which had been previously challenged by revisionists and implicitly acknowledged by Auschwitz Museum curator Jerry Wrobleski, who officially lowered the Auschwitz death toll from four million to "about" one and a half million in 1992.

The revised death figures would be inscribed in 18 languages and placed near Auschwitz-Birkenau's main monument. The new inscription would read,

"Let this place remain for eternity as a cry of despair, and a warning to humanity. About one and a half million men, women, children, and infants, mainly Jews from different countries of Europe, were murdered here. The world was silent. Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1945."

According to an article published by the Wiesenthal Center,

"This new text will replace the old plaque which read: "This is the place of martyrdom and death of four million victims murdered in the Nazi genocide, 1940 – 1945."

The Wiesenthal Center's peculiar exegesis in respect to this drastic reduction in the overall death toll was something of an anticlimax. "In fact," they stated, "the "4 million" figure, [which represents more than four times the actual non-Jewish losses at Auschwitz-Birkenau], was the work of post-war communist authorities who sought to blur the uniqueness of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust."

Unfortunately, the center neglected to identify these alleged communist authorities by name. Neither did they provide a reasonably intelligent explanation as to why they should have "sought to blur the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust." More significantly, they failed to provide convincing proof to refute the inference that Jewish losses had always been included in the four million figures, whose origins in any event may be meticulously traced to contemporary sources during the war, rather than postwar.

Moreover, historical data relative to the total number of deaths at Auschwitz has never been consistent and historians have been unable to unanimously agree upon a conclusive figure. To all intents and purposes, the controversy remains unresolved and the total number of victims is expected to decrease in the light of new research.

As the orchestrated campaign to assail the Catholic Church gained momentum, several highly agitated Jewish journalists jumped on the bandwagon in a seeming attempt to foment public contempt against the Church by imprudently comparing the image of the Christian cross with the Nazi swastika. But in 1995, Leon Wieseltier, a writer for the New York Times, opined that the "shadow of the Cross at Auschwitz was, with all due respect, sickening" and irresponsibly declared that "the Holocaust was perpetrated by "Christians who called themselves Christians."

However, during and prior to the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, Jewish propagandists had portrayed the swastika as a crucifix upon which Jesus Christ was affixed in order to enlist the support of Christians.

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutantamur in illis.

Thus, Jewish organizations were sending a subliminal message to non-Jewish survivors and their families that the lives of their loved ones were of lesser value than the lives of Jews, thereby denying their very humanity. Practically speaking, non-Jewish victims of National Socialism were not being told to "go to the back of the bus," but to vacate the bus entirely. By spurning the non-Jewish victims of Auschwitz, the advocates of Jewish exclusivity were in effect saying,

"We don't care what other bus you take, or wherever else you may eventually decide to take it, but one thing is certain: You will not be taking this bus, which has been chartered for Jews alone."

As if to underscore the point, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center flew to Rome in an effort to pressure Vatican officials to submit to Jewish demands, telling them:

"At Auschwitz the Church is staking exclusive claim to a symbol that is not hers. There are other fields to claim for Christ, but this is not one of them… "

Jack Reich, a self-described survivor of Auschwitz, publicly calumniated the Catholic Church when he averred:

"There were no bishops or nuns praying with their crosses for my loved ones when we were being humiliated, starved and murdered. This is nothing less than the spiritual desecration of what was predominantly a slaughterhouse for Jews."

British mainstream holocaust historian Martin Gilbert chimed in, "What the Catholic Church is doing is scandalous and grotesque."

In its illustrated periodical, "Response," the Wiesenthal Center opined that "the Church located on the grounds of the former extermination camp of Birkenau is offensive to Jews."

Never one to mince words, Rabbi Hier, Dean of the Center, groaned,

"To hoist a towering cross upon the families of the victims who make a pilgrimage to this site is an unnecessary provocation. The Church at Birkenau is even more offensive than the convent at Auschwitz because Birkenau is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world."

In an astonishing act of servile compliance reminiscent of Cardinal Glemp's degradation, the Auschwitz Museum, which has actual control over the administration of the former camp, unceremoniously removed the cross in December, 1997.

The irresponsible attempts initiated by related Jewish organizations to equate or correlate the Nazi racial persecution of the Jews with imagined "anti-Semitism" peculiar to the Catholic Church and Christianity in general is not only unjustifiable, disingenuous, and intellectually dishonest, but also betrays a rather abysmal ignorance of Christian theology and two thousand years of historically documented Jewish-Christian interaction.

Regrettably, the Cross conflict erupted with renewed energy in 1998, when Polish camp survivors, along with their families and assorted Polish nationalists, temporarily united under the leadership of Kazimierz Switon. In open defiance of the ban on crosses, they planted two hundred of them on the grounds of Auschwitz I to the astonishment of the entire world. Switon and his supporters announced their intention not to leave the premises until Church officials provided them with a written guarantee that the crosses would not be removed.

Jewish sentinel organizations, spearheaded by elite formations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, immediately intervened, orchestrating a cacophonous, carefully staged series of public and private protests denouncing the "sacrilege," while the irrepressible Rabbi Weiss intoned in vampiric style that "Jews would not negotiate in the shadow of the cross."

Switon's group ultimately failed to achieve their objective and expressed their disappointment in what was perceived as the Church's betrayal of the people of Poland when the crosses were permanently removed.

These Polish nationalists were painfully cognizant of the fact that during the Soviet occupation of Poland during the second world war, over 1.5 million ethnic Poles were deported to the Soviet Union, among them over a quarter of a million children under the age of fourteen. Of this number, over half a million were dispatched to prisons and labor camps, from which most never returned, and the overwhelming majority of these victims were Polish Catholics. Exacerbating this issue was the fact that a significant number of Jews had actively collaborated with the Soviets in their oppression of the Polish population.

This fact was later acknowledged and confirmed by two Jewish historians who noted that "Jewish youth and proletariat played an important role in the apparatus of oppression, and implemented the 'class struggle' directed primarily against the Poles with 'revolutionary intransigence.'"

A contemporary Jewish witness to these tragic events later observed,

"The welcome extended to the Bolsheviks was above all a demonstration of a separate identity, of being different from those against whom the Soviets were waging a war – from the Poles – a refusal to be identified with the Polish state. We must not pretend that we do not realize this, or fail to admit that it was the result of our own policies and of our anti-Semitism."

Underscoring these perceptions, Aleksander Smolar, Chairman of the Stefan Batory Foundation in Poland, reports,

"In no other European country during the war was there such a dramatic collision of interests and attitudes between the Jews and the nation among which they lived, as during the Soviet occupation 1939-1941. Elsewhere Jews had discordant interests with a part of the society around them [for example, with collaborators], but in solidarity, in a relationship with the rest of society. In eastern Poland, however, it was the Jews who were perceived as collaborators."

Thus, the legitimate concerns of the Polish people were strictly ignored by Jewish groups critical of the Poles and the Catholic Church, as well as by Vatican officials themselves.

Boasting of its own unique role in instigating the confrontation which led to an escalation of the Auschwitz controversy, the Wiesenthal Center proclaimed,

"During the past two decades, the Center has been in the forefront of the battle against the Holocaust deniers – a movement led by professional anti-Semites and pseudo-intellectuals. But what happens when extremists, including members of an important institution – in this case the Polish Catholic Church – decide to hijack memory and to recast history to suit their theological and nationalistic agendas? The 1992 U. N. declaration designating the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau as "inviolate," meant nothing to those seeking to establish posthumous control over the largest Jewish cemetery in the world… "

Not only did the Wiesenthal Center irresponsibly imply an existential affinity between the Catholic Church and "Holocaust deniers," but their ironic accusations constituted an act of incredible, self-serving elitism in view of the fact that, in respect to Auschwitz, no other group, nation or organization has ever attempted to "hijack memory, recast history" or "establish posthumous control" more determinedly than those Jewish agencies so actively campaigning to jealously maintain and safeguard their exclusive claim to Auschwitz. Even conceding the fact that more Jews than non-Jews died at Auschwitz does not in any sense diminish the right of non-Jewish victims to claim equal status with Jews. It is patently unjust for one group of victims to demand exclusivity in a camp where Jews and non-Jews alike perished in vast numbers. In death all men are equal. Moreover, even in Birkenau, Jews must share their legacy with the Sinta [Gypsies] who were also interned in that sub-division of the camp. As Polish analysts have been quick to point out, if exclusivity is what certain Jewish organizations are demanding, their efforts would be better served if they focused attention on Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Chelmno, for these were said to be exclusively "Jewish" camps.

Likewise, Jewish complaints alleging that the Poles and the Catholic Church were somehow negligent in their perceived duty to rescue them during the war cannot be sustained or validated in either a moral or historical context, for Polish Catholics died in numbers equal to or surpassing the total number of citizens of Jewish descent living in Poland at that time. Whether the victims on either side were gassed or starved, shot or worked to death, the end result remains the same. Considering all the known facts, is it not therefore justifiable to raise relevant questions as to the silence of Jewish leaders during the same epoch?

Is it unreasonable to inquire as to why influential Jewish leaders did not rise to the aid of Polish Catholics or otherwise publicize, protest or draw attention to their mistreatment at the hands of the Communists? Moreover, is it not the primary duty of the Pope to tend after the spiritual and temporal needs of his own flock?

Caught between two harsh taskmasters, the Poles suffered under Nazis and Soviets alike and their bondage to tyranny persisted for decades after the war had long since ended. Similarly, the Church bears neither guilt nor responsibility for the Nazi persecution of the Jews, as two successive Popes, Pius XI and Pius XII, condemned the anti-Jewish measures enacted by the Nazis on numerous occasions. As former Israeli consul and author Pinchas E. Lapide notes, the Catholic Church was responsible for saving more Jewish lives than any other organization during the entire war, Jewish included. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for Jewish criticism in regard to the alleged inactive role played by the Vatican or Pope Pius XII during the war. Aside from marching into Berlin at the head of his Swiss guards and arresting the most powerful dictator in the world, unrealistic Jewish critics have never satisfactorily explained precisely what they expect the pope could have done, considering the limited options available to him. Furthermore, the Vatican was unable to prevent the arrest of Maximilian Kolbe as well as the deportation of Edith Stein. Neither the Poles themselves nor all the popes and bishops of Christendom were in a position to extricate the occupied countries from the draconian rules of Hitler and Stalin. In view of the fact that the Pope was unable to save his own coreligionists, how realistic is it of Jewish critics to expect that it lay within his power to save the Jews of Europe from the clutches of the Gestapo?

Over the past five decades, successive Pontiffs have, in the most strenuous terms, repeatedly directed public attention to the fact that tens of millions of infants have been murdered as a result of legalized abortion, calling upon the governments of the world to repeal these laws, yet not one nation has favorably responded to papal admonitions. Regardless of the hindsight opinions expressed by the usual critics, a public announcement by Pope Pius XII in respect to Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews would have come to naught.

Thus, the vocally abrasive Jewish squatters professing exclusive claim to the entire Auschwitz complex do so not only in a symbolic sense, but quite literally as well. By evicting and seeking to preclude all former non-Jewish inmates from the premises and effacing their memory, Jewish organizations, regardless of whether they are well-intentioned or not, relegate their deaths, suffering and remembrance to the dustbin of human history. For the purveyors of the Holocaust Industry, the afflictions suffered by the non-Jewish victims of Auschwitz become just a minor footnote of history.

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Author(s): Joseph P. Bellinger
Title: Auschwitz in the Shadow of the Cross
Published: 1998-08-23
First posted on CODOH: Aug. 21, 1998, 7 p.m.
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