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French Jewish Leader Warns Poland That Carmelite Convent Must Be Moved

A French Jewish leader warned the Catholic hierarchy of Poland on Sunday that Catholic-Jewish relations would be in jeopardy if the church fails again to honor its commitment to remove a Carmelite convent from the grounds of the former Auschwitz death camp.

“There is a limit to patience,” declared Jean Kahn, president of CRIF, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France.

“A time comes when one has to draw conclusions if the Polish Church does nothing to respect the commitment given through the signature of one of its highest dignitaries,” Kahn said.

He was referring to Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, the archbishop of Krakow, one of four European cardinals who signed a pledge to European Jewish leaders in Geneva on Feb. 22, 1987, that the convent would be gone within two years.

Although the deadline passed six months ago, the nuns have refused to leave.

Neither the Polish branch of the Catholic Church nor the Vatican has exerted any noticeable pressure on the nuns to do so.

Earlier this year, Jewish organizations set a new deadline of July 22. But it appears little progress toward resolving the issue will be made by Saturday.

Kahn referred to this in an address to more than 1,000 people here Sunday.

They were marking the 47th anniversary of the roundup of 13,000 French and foreign Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris on July 16, 1942.

NOT ‘AGAINST THE CARMELITES’

The thousands of men, women and children were herded by French police into a sports stadium where they were confined in stifling heat for several days, then put in box cars on a train bound for Auschwitz. Only a few survived the journey.

Kahn stressed that Auschwitz is ground hallowed by Jewish martyrs. “We have nothing against the Carmelites,” he said.

“They can pray and meditate as they wish on another location, but not on this spot that belongs first to the martyrs, to all of humanity, but to no one in particular.

“No one has the right to claim it,” he said.

The 59-year-old Paris attorney, who was elected to head CRIF on May 21, expressed French Jews’ solidarity with seven American Jews who were assaulted by local workers while demonstrating at Auschwitz last Friday for removal of the convent.

“The images of the inhabitants of Auschwitz beating the children of those who perished there will leave us with very raw feelings,” he said.

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