O’connor Says the Suffering of the Victims of Nazism Must Be Remembered

John Cardinal O’Connor joined with Jewish community leaders here Tuesday in a ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Wall across from the United Nations commemorating Yom Hashoah, the Day of Holocaust Remembrance.

O’Connor, the spiritual leader of nearly 2 million Catholics in the New York Archdiocese, spoke of the need to remember the suffering of the victims of Nazism, and recalled his visit to the Dachau death camp.

Reading an excerpt from “Liturgical Reflections on the Holocaust,” prepared by Dr. Eugene Fisher, executive secretary for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rabbi Leon Klenicki, interfaith director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, O’Connor said:

“Six million Jewish men and women, one million children among them, were taken by other human beings to die in gas and fire. Not only did Jews die … millions of Poles, Gypsies, Russians and other Europeans also ended their lives as victims of Nazism,” O’Connor said. “But to be Jewish in Nazi Europe of itself meant annihilation and death.”

STRONG ATTACK ON WALDHEIM

However, O’Connor’s remarks appeared overshadowed by ADL director Nathan Perlmutter’s strong attack on Kurt Waldheim, the former United Nations Secretary General, who is seeking to become Austria’ next President.

Referring to Waldheim’s activities as a Wehrmacht officer, Perlmutter said, “Waldheim’s lies about his past are not nearly so significant as Austria’s polling booth approbation for his lies.”

Waldheim missed victory in the election Sunday and will face a run-off election June 8. Waldheim, the candidate of the conservative People’s Party, received 49.66 of the vote against 43.66 percent for his Socialist rival, Kurt Steyrer. A vote of 50 percent or more is required to avoid a run-off.

Asked by reporters after the ceremony to comment on the events surrounding Waldheim in the past months, O’Connor declined, saying that he felt it would be “in appropriate to comment at this time” on events in Austria.

Perlmutter, meanwhile, wondered whether the vote supporting Waldheim for President of Austria is symptomatic of a change in the public’s attitude toward the Holocaust. “Has the word ‘Holocaust’, originally selected because it burned and it blistered with its scorching imagery, today lost its heat?” Perlmutter asked.

Perlmutter later suggested in his remarks that Jews “not depreciate the currency of the Holocaust by invoking it too often, by speaking too readily, too indiscriminantly, of Holocaust, of genocide.”

The Yom Hashoah commemoration Tuesday, sponsored by the ADL, was held at the Holocaust Wall at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. The Wall is a series of seven bronze bas-reliefs by sculptor Arbit Blatas depicting the Nazi degradation and slaughter of six million Jews. It was erected as a permanent outdoor memorial by the ADL.

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