This past Monday, January 27, marked the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the notorious concentration camps established by the German Nazis for the implementation of their “Final Solution,” that is, the extermination of the European Jew- ish population. Many others were killed, among them such religious personages as Rev. Dittrich Bonhoeffer and Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, as well as Roma, political opponents, and others who in some way threatened the Nazi message; but far and away, it was the Jewish people who were the primary targets and victims.
I hope you had the opportunity to see and hear the several Jewish survivors who were interviewed this week on television. They were children when the camps were liberated, and they had horrifying stories to tell of the systematic rounding up, deporting and killing of their relatives. For most, this was their first (and last) return trip to the camp. Entering through the infamous gate, up- on which is inscribed (with terrible irony) “Arbeit macht frei,” work makes you free, the survivors recalled their experiences all those years before. They offered prayers for the souls who were lost, they mourned the deaths of their loved ones, they cried.
On the grounds of the camp, buried near the crematoria, a manuscript entitled, “From the Heart of Hell,” was found. Witten and hidden by Zalman Gradowski, who died in the camp, it is the shocking record of the tragedy of the Holocaust, and was meant to inform the world of the atrocities that were being committed by the Nazis.
The plea of those survivors rings in my ears, and should in those of all of us…NEVER AGAIN!