Fresh Denouncements, Demonstrations As Deadline for Moving Convent Passes
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Fresh Denouncements, Demonstrations As Deadline for Moving Convent Passes

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European Jewish leaders have denounced the Roman Catholic Church for failing to meet the latest deadline to remove the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz.

One leader is calling for a freeze in Jewish-Catholic relations until the move takes place.

Meanwhile, European Jewish Students demon-starting at the convent site Sunday were jeered by local Polish residents in the third demonstration in 10 days to take place at the site of the former death camp.

There were no reports of violence during Sunday’s demonstration, unlike on July 14, when seven activists, mostly from the United States, received blows and other indignities from Polish workers, while police stood by without interfering. The seven demonstrated again on July 16, without incident.

The demonstration Sunday was staged to protest the Polish Church’s failure to meet a July 22 deadline Catholic representatives had given for the nuns to move to a temporary site.

The Catholics had suggested the date after they failed to meet the original Feb 22 deadline for the evacuation of the convent that was set out in a Catholic-Jewish accord signed in Geneva on Feb. 22, 1987.

According to reports from Poland on Sunday, about 200 Poles from Oswiecim, the Polish name for the village of Auschwitz, shouted and laughed at dozens of students who circled the convent, blew a shofar, lit memorial candles and read texts by survivors of the camp.

The students, who came from throughout Europe, chartered a plane from Brussels to stage the protest and brought journalists with them to witness the demonstration.


Belgian historian Bernard Suchecky, a leader of the Jewish students group, read a statement blaming Pop John Paul II for the existence of the convent.

The protesting students referred to the previous attack on Jewish demonstrators as a “mini-pogrom” and accused the nuns of failing to intercede.

“We are here to sound the shofar so that the walls of incomprehension, fear and hatred behind which you are hidden come tumbling down,” Suchecky was quoted as saying.

On Friday, Theo Klein, a Jewish leader at the 1986 and 1987 Geneva talks with Catholic Church representatives to remove the convent, launched a bitter attack on the Church’s failure to respect its pledges.

klein, past president of both the European Jewish Council of Jewish Institutions in France, announced in Paris that he had written to Cardinal Albert Decourtray of Lyon, telling him to rule out future formal relations between the two sides until the convent is removed or relocated.

Klein, who has the reputation of being a moderate in his ties with Catholic leaders, said Jewish representatives will refrain from meeting with the pope as long as the Church does not respect its commitments.

“We might still have contacts, but we shall no longer hold joint meetings or conferences,” Klein said in his July 20 letter to Decourtray.

Klein insisted in the letter that the Carmelite nuns be housed elsewhere immediately and that the huge cross erected near the concentration camp site be removed.

Another declaration was issued Friday by Lionel Kopelowitz, Klein’s successor as president of the European Jewish Congress. Kopelowitz, who heads the British Board of Jewish Deputies, said in a statement published here and in London:

“Our vigilance will remain constant until the last nun has left the building where the Nazis Kept the Zyklon B gas, and until there is respect for the memory of all our departed.”

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