Wiesel warns on Iran, raps wartime pope


ROME (JTA) — Elie Wiesel renewed warnings against Iran and implicitly criticized World War II Pope Pius XII for remaining silent in the face of the Holocaust.

Addressing the Italian parliament and senior government leaders Wednesday at the main International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Rome, Wiesel said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be arrested the next time he leaves Iran and "hauled off to the International Court of Justice to face charges of incitement of crimes against humanity."

Recalling the mechanism of the Holocaust, he said, "Whether at the lowest level of politics or the highest level of spirituality, silence never helps the victims. Silence always helps the aggressor."

This was interpreted as a reference to Pius XII, whom critics accuse of turning a blind eye to Jewish suffering, but that the Vatican insists worked behind the scenes to save Jews.

Also Wednesday, German-born Pope Benedict XVI, who made his first visit to Rome’s synagogue 10 days ago, termed as "murderous insanity" the "crimes of unprecedented cruelty committed in the extermination camps created by Nazi Germany."

"Deeply moved, our thoughts go to the countless victims of that blind racial and religious hatred who suffered deportation, imprisonment and death in those abhorrent and inhuman places," the pope said.

Scores of commemorative and cultural events, as well as educational programs, were held throughout Italy to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In Rome, the day was marred by unknown vandals spray-painting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel graffiti on the wall of a museum in the former SS headquarters and in other locations in the city. The graffiti included personal attacks on Rome’s mayor and the president of the Rome Jewish community, and also slogans such as "The Holocaust equals Zionist propaganda."

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