PARIS (Feb. 1)
West European Jewish leaders are due to meet this month with a high-ranking Catholic delegation to try to find a compromise solution to the future of the Carmelite convent erected on the site of the Auschwitz death camp. The meeting, which will be held in Geneva, is to be attended by four Cardinals: Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, who heads the Crocow Diocese; Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris; the Archbishop of Belgium; and the Cardinal of Lyon who nominally heads the French Catholic Church. It will be the second such meeting since last summer.
Jewish communities in Western Europe, and particularly in Belgium and France, are protesting against the very presence of the convent on the site where more than three million Jews were murdered. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, claims that the presence of the convent and the prayers of the dozen Catholic nuns who live there should be seen as an act of penitence for World War II crimes.
A three-man French Jewish delegation left Paris for Poland at the invitation of Macharski, whose See covers the Auschwitz camp site. Macharski also attended the first Geneva conference on this subject and two weeks ago visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
The delegation consists of French Chief Rabbi Rene Samuel Sirat; Prof. Adi Steg, president of the Alliance Israelite Universelle; and B’nai B’rith representative Sam Hoffenberg.
Stefan Grayek, the president of the World Federation of Jewish Resistance Fighters and Deportees, Sunday condemned the visit and the forthcoming Geneva meeting Grayek, who returned last week from Warsaw, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency “There should be no talks with the Catholic Church to seek a compromise solution on this question. The only solution is for the convent to close down and for the Church to respect Auschwitz as the site where three-quarters of the victims were Jewish and where the Nazis murdered over three million Jews.”
Grayek said that any talks with Catholic representatives only tend to encourage the Vatican to believe that a solution can be found which would ensure the continued presence of the convent at the Auschwitz camp site. Grayek said that a Catholic chapel has recently been opened at the site of the former Sobibor camp where only Jews were put to death.