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Fruits of anti-Semitism cry out to visitors at Holocaust Memorial.

When President Jimmy Carter in 1980 appointed me as a founding member of the Holocaust Memorial Council, I accepted the invitation, although I was uncertain what that council should do. Thirteen years later, April 22, the Holocaust Council dedicated on the mall in Washington a stunning monument to the Holocaust. The occasion is melancholic, but also uplifting.

One of my regrets is that the Jewish community that raised $160 million for the memorial did not ask the Christian community for any substantial donations. No one publicly said that the Christian community would not give generously, but I have the embarrassing feeling that the fund-raisers were silently afraid that non-Jewish religious groups would not be generous.

I am reminded of the day I first visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. I saw in this Holocaust museum the names of all who perished, some of their books and clothes and replicas of the dreadful places at which they were killed.

When I emerged from Yad Vashem, I literally could not speak. I understood for the first time what Elie Wiesel meant when he said that for 10 years after his family perished in the Holocaust he could not write about it.

Now again, as this Holocaust Memorial is dedicated, words seem banal, futile. After almost 50 years the Holocaust is still unspeakable.

Visitors may obtain, as they enter, an identity card for one of the victims; as they leave they will learn the fate of their adopted victim. This is a creative way of never letting the world forget how it murdered about half of God's chosen people.

The fruits of anti-Semitism cry out to visitors at the Holocaust Memorial. There is no way to pretend that the contempt for the Jews that disfigured so many Catholic nations in Europe has evaporated. It must still be confronted and rejected.

For many years I have tried to imagine what Catholics would do if up to half their members were murdered. They would be as traumatized as the 13 million Jews in the world who saw six million of their members killed.

The mandated mission of Jews today is to assist Israel, established in 1948, to care for the Jewish refugees of Europe and the Middle East and to explore with the world why anti-Semitism produced the Holocaust and why anti-Zionism has afflicted Israel with four wars and other disasters.

It's hard to express the complex feelings I experienced when I viewed again the artifacts of the Warsaw ghetto: books about the Shoah, shoes worn by the million children who died, notebooks from the death camps.

It is all unspeakable. I recalled the words of Father Hans Kung in his book The Church, that "any kind of anti-Semitism is radically impossible" for the Christian. He continued:

The church, being the new people of God, cannot possibly speak or act in any way against the ancient people of God. It is a sure sign that we are opposed to the one true God, if we are opposed to the Jews. Israel remains a living witness of the reality of the living God. The father of Christ and of the church remains the God of Israel.

Jesuit Father Robert Drinan is a professor at Georgetown Law Center.
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Title Annotation:Washington, D.C.; Starting Point
Author:Drinan, Robert F.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 30, 1993
Words:540
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