Pope: Where Was God During Auschwitz Horror?
By Reuters & Ha'aretz.com
German-born Pope Benedict, head of the world's largest church, asked on Sunday where God was when 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died at the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Speaking at the Birkenau section of the camp, near where Jews were led from trains to be gassed and cremated, the head of the Roman Catholic Church said it was almost impossible to speak in "This place of horror," especially as a German pope.
"In a place like this, words fail. In the end, there can only be a dread silence - a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?" He said in a speech delivered in Italian. "Our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again," he said at the end of a four-day visit to Poland.
"Our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again," he said in his address.
"The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth," he said. "By destroying Israel with the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention."
Recalling his Polish predecessor's visit to the camp in 1979, Benedict said, "Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people. I come here today as a son of the German people."
The Auschwitz complex in Nazi-occupied Poland was a linchpin in Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" To wipe out European Jewry during World War Two. Six million Jews perished before Allied forces defeated Nazi Germany and liberated the camps.
In his speech, the Pope twice spoke chilling German phrases the Nazis used for some enemies -- "lebensunwertes Leben" (life unworthy of living) for gypsies and "Abschaum der Nation" (scum of the nation) for anti-Nazi Germans.
He said that, by trying to wipe out the Jews, the Nazis wanted ultimately "to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid."
Germans murdered by the Nazis were "witnesses to the truth and goodness which even among our people were not eclipsed ... now they stand before us like lights shining in a dark night."
Benedict ended his speech quoting Psalm 23, "one of the psalms of Israel which is also a prayer of Christians."The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," he said. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me."
Before Benedict spoke, Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich chanted the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. The New York-born rabbi was attacked on a Warsaw street on Saturday by a young man shouting "Poland is for Poles."