Menu JTA Search

Plan to Build Convent on Site of Auschwitz Death Camp Sparks Anger Among European Jewish Communities

European Jewish communities are shocked and outraged at a plan by Polish Catholic Church officials to build a Carmelite convent on the site of the Auschwitz death camp where more than two million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during World War II, the World Jewish Congress reported today. The WJC also reported that at its request, the Polish government will intervene with church officials regarding their plan.

Belgian Jews first learned of the convent proposal when fund-raising efforts for its building were organized by a group called “Help to the Church in Distress,” which works for the Roman Catholic Church in Communist countries.

According to the Brussels evening newspaper Le Soir, eight Carmelite monks have been living in Auschwitz since last May, in preparation for the erection of a convent there. The newspaper reports that the convent would symbolize: “Love, peace and reconciliation, witnessing the victorious power of the cross of Jesus. It will become a spiritual fortress, and the proof of the conversion of apostates and those who went astray in various countries.”

In early December, when a delegation of the WJC led by its president Edgar Bronfman was officially received in Warsaw, the issue was raised with Polish authorities. Bronfman advised Poland’s Minister of Religious Affairs Adam Lopatka of the categorical Jewish opposition to the proposed convent and received Lopatka’s assurances that he would intervene directly with Polish Catholic officials.

‘… AUSCHWITZ BELONGS TO ALL WHO WERE MASSACRED’

In Geneva, the president of the International Council of Jewish Women, Leila Siegel, has written to Sister Sheila Sedawie of the Sisters of Zion asking that the placement of a convent in Auschwitz be prevented:

“We feel this way not only because of the martyrdom of millions of Jewish children, women and men,” Seigel wrote, “but also because their martyrdom was shared by millions of human beings having various beliefs and creeds.”

She added: “We believe that the ground of Auschwitz belongs to all who were massacred there and that, therefore, no one group should establish itself on this hallowed ground. Were this to happen, the action, however laudible in its aims, would create much misunderstanding and resentment.”

NEXT STORY