A group of Auschwitz survivors and their families on a “memorial mission” to the death camp site this week had hoped to avoid embroilment in the bitter controversy over the presence of a Carmelite convent there.
But after encountering gross anti-Semitic insults, they apparently could not.
They demonstrated vigorously outside the convent Monday, demanding its removal from the place where 2 million Jews were slaughtered.
The group of about 50 “Mengele twins” are survivors of barbaric medical experiments performed by the notorious death camp doctor, Josef Mengele.
They traveled to Auschwitz with their children and grandchildren. A delegation of four members of Israel’s Knesset accompanied them.
Miriam Zeiger, who heads the association of “Mengele twins” in Israel, told the daily newspaper Ha’aretz in a telephone interview last weekend that the group would avoid any provocative act in connection with the convent.
But their resolve was put to a hard test. At the Auschwitz parking lot, an attendant collecting tickets told the Holocaust survivors, “It’s a pity you came. What are you looking for here, you dirty Jews?”
EMOTIONAL VISIT TO BIRKENAU
During the protest outside the convent, several local passersby insulted the Holocaust survivors, objecting to their presence at the site.
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, one woman asked: “Do we have the right to drive you out of Bethlehem because Jesus was born there? What right do you have to tells us what to do here?”
A violent response by some of the visitors was narrowly averted.
The four Knesset members did not attend the demonstration, as it would have been unaceptable for them to have done so in a foreign country.
The survivors and their families visited the Birkenau death camp Sunday and nearby Auschwitz on Monday. They began the Birkenau tour by singing “Jerusalem of Gold” and “Am Yisrael Chai.”
But dreadful memories broke down all semblance of a structured ceremony, when the survivors approached the ramp where Mengele selected who would be sent directly to the gas chambers.
Everyone reportedly wept as they stood together at a pile of personal effects — tiny shoes and boots and other articles of clothing–taken from children before they were gassed.
“The Nazis had no use for children,” one man said, “but they found twins interesting.”
Zeiger called the visit “our confrontation with our lost childhood.”
One of the surviving twins, standing outside the Carmelite convent later, said, “The Christians never helped the Jews in Auschwitz, so they have no right to pray for the souls of the dead now.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.