Attack on Protesters at Auschwitz Draws Protest from Jewish Groups
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Attack on Protesters at Auschwitz Draws Protest from Jewish Groups

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An assault on seven American Jews demonstrating Friday at the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz has shocked and deeply disturbed the Jewish community here.

The demonstrators, led by Rabbi Avraham Weiss of the Riverdale section of the Bronx, were drenched with water and then beaten by workers as they were dragged off the grounds of the convent, which lies on the perimeter of the site of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

The demonstrators had climbed over a fence and onto the convent’s porch, in an effort, they told reporters, to talk to the nuns, who have shirked international demands to leave the premises.

As he was being dragged off, Weiss shouted, “Nazi Poles, anti-Semites,” at the convent workers.

Five police officers, a priest and about 20 others looked on without intervening as the Jews were punched and kicked by the workers for 20 minutes, according to reports from Poland.

“Rip off their skullcaps, drag them out,” a Polish student priest was quoted as shouting as he watched the struggle.

A protest against the attack has been filed at the Polish Embassy in the United States by Kalman Sultanik, vice president of the World Jewish Congress and president of the Federation of Polish Jews.

The incident was the latest in the ongoing battle over the 5-year-old Auschwitz convent, which many Jews consider a desecration of the spot where millions of Jews were murdered.

That battle has gotten more explosive since Feb. 22, the deadline by which Catholic and Jewish leaders had agreed the convent would be transferred to a location away from the Auschwitz grounds.


The convent is now located in a building which stored the deadly Zyklon B gas the Nazis used to kill Jews. Instead of being closed down, the convent is reportedly undergoing renovations.

A statement released here by the World Jewish Congress “holds the Polish government responsible” for the incident Friday, which the group called “a vicious and unprovoked attack.”WJC also asked that the government take action against the workers.

The American Jewish Committee urged in a statement that “those who carried out the violence be brought swiftly to justice.” The statement was issued by Rabbi A. James Rudin, director of interreligious affairs for AJCommittee.

The continuing presence of the convent, he said, “has deeply injured Catholic-Jewish relations” and as long as it remains, “the wound will only fester.”

The vehemence of the Rudin’s statement was noteworthy, since AJCommittee is generally regarded as taking a more conciliatory approach to the convent issue than the World Jewish Congress.

The demonstrators continued their series of protests Sunday. According to reports from Poland, five of them returned to the convent clothed in striped concentration camp uniforms, once again climbing over the fence onto the convent grounds. They remained there for six hours undisturbed.

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