Pope Francis issued a statement to the Simon Wiesenthal Center on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, recognizing the group for helping “keep alive the memory of the Holocaust.”
“Your center, active throughout the world, seeks to combat all forms of antisemitism, racism, and hatred towards minorities. For decades, you have maintained contacts with the Holy See, in a shared desire to make the world a better place in respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis said Jan. 20.
The pope referenced his own 2016 visit to the notorious death camp complex in Poland, where an estimated 1.1 million people (of whom 960,000 were Jews) were exterminated during the Nazi occupation.
The first camp in the complex was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945.
“May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent,” he said.
Pope Francis spoke of the “rich spiritual patrimony” between Christians and Jews, while condemning “every form of antisemitism” and the “barbaric resurgence” of anti-Jewish discrimination.
The pope said to counter the problem, “we must commit ourselves also to tilling the soil in which hatred grows and sowing peace instead.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center identifies itself as “a global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context.”
It is named after Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the Nazi death camps who “dedicated his life to documenting the crimes of the Holocaust and to hunting down the perpetrators still at large.”