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WHY, LORD, DID YOU STAY SILENT? German Pope s cry of despair as he visits Auschwitz.

Byline: By STEPHEN WHITE

HANDS clasped, German-born Pope Benedict enters Auschwitz death camp yesterday to ask how God could allow such hell on earth.

Walking alone beneath the camp's gate with the Nazis' mocking words Arbeit Macht Frei - Work Sets You Free - his lips moved in silent prayer as he mourned 1.5 million dead.

Shortly afterwards the Pontiff, unwillingly enrolled in the Hitler youth and later drafted into the Wehrmacht, declared it was almost impossible to speak in "this valley of darkness".

He said: "In a place like this, words fail. In the end there can only be a dread silence, which is a heartfelt cry to God. Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?"

Calling himself a "son of Germany", Pope Benedict, 79, stood before the Death Wall where thousands were shot dead. He then visited the Birkenau extermination section where Jews were led from trains straight to the gas chambers.

Gazing down the rail tracks that brought victims in cattle cars to their death, he said: "I had to come. It is the due of all who suffered."

The Pope's visit was the last stop on a four-day trip to Poland. He accompanied his predecessor Pope John Paul to the camp in 1979.

Tony Blair, on holiday in Tuscany, will have a Vatican audience with the Pope on Saturday.

s.white@mirror.co.uk

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 29, 2006
Words:237
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