BONN (Sep. 5)
The Polish director of the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum believes the agreement to remove a convent from the former death camp’s grounds must be upheld.
“Our first priority is to restore calm in this place and the best way to do that is to practice what has been agreed upon by both sides,” the museum director, Kazimierz Smolen, was quoted as saying.
Smolen spoke to a delegation representing West German youth organizations, the Hessischer Jugendring, which visited Auschwitz over the weekend. His remarks were quoted Monday by the daily Frankfurter Rundschaeu.
He referred to the conflict raging over the Polish Church’s refusal to honor an agreement reached more than two years ago to relocate a Carmelite convent built on the site of the death camp, where some 2 million Jews perished in the Holocaust.
The agreement was signed Feb. 22, 1987, in Geneva by ranking members of the European Catholic clergy, including the archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Fransciszek Macharski, and world Jewish leaders.
Now the Polish primate, Cardinal Josef Glemp, is demanding that the agreement be “renegotiated.”
But Smolen made clear that “the museum directorate will not participate in any negotiations to change this agreement.”
He explained that the directorate of the Auschwitz memorial and museum could not intervene in the dispute, adding, “We would not have acted if the Jews built a synagogue at the site.”
500 STAGE PROTEST IN BRUSSELS
Smolen told the visiting German youths that when the convent was opened, it aroused a storm of emotion among Jews that the Polish Church leaders had not anticipated.
But meanwhile, Poles also became emotional over the issue, and that was “very negative in this particular place,” he said.
According to the Frankfurter Rundschaeu, the museum director was visibly upset by the conflict.
“If there is an agreement to move the convent elsewhere, it should be carried out,” he was quoted as saying.
In Brussels meanwhile, some 500 persons protested Monday outside the Polish Embassy against remarks Glemp made on Aug. 26 that were viewed by many to be anti-Semitic. The cardinal accused Jews, among other things, of controlling the international news media and using it to defame Poland.
The protesters where mostly Jews but included a liberal sprinkling of Poles and other Christians, as well as World War II veterans. They had responded to an appeal by the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations.
A delegation of protesters was received by Polish Embassy officials.
David Susskind, who heads the secular Jewish community center in Brussels, urged the Polish government to end its “neutrality” on the convent issue and pressure the Polish Church to conform to the Geneva agreement.
(JTA correspondent Yossi Lempkowicz in Brussels contributed to this report.)