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Polish Government Says Convent at Auschwitz Will Be Relocated

January 20, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Polish government has given written assurances that a Carmelite convent built on the grounds of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp will be removed, in compliance with an agreement reached here last Feb. 22 between high-level delegations representing Jewish organizations and the Catholic Church.

Church officials in Poland apparently stalled on implementing the agreement. Visitors returning from Auschwitz have reported that no steps have been taken to remove the convent and that, in fact, the number of nuns in residence has increased.

The World Jewish Congress, which played a key part in reaching the agreement, was concerned. Gerhart Riegner, co-chairman of the WJC’s governing board, visited the Polish minister of religious affairs, Dr. Wladyslaw Loranc, in Warsaw last November to raise the issue.

On Tuesday, Riegner made public a letter he received from Loranc, promising that the nearly year-old agreement will be implemented without further delay.

Riegner told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that church representatives in Poland claimed they could not act as long as they had no permission from the government. Loranc promised to make things move and, in fact, kept his promise, Riegner said.


The Geneva meeting last year followed longstanding expressions of deep distress by Jewish groups that a convent was located at a place where hundreds of thousands of Jews died in the Holocaust. Many ranking church officials in Europe expressed sympathy with Jewish concern over the issue.

The matter was raised by Edgar Bronfman, president of the WJC, when he met with Polish Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski in Warsaw in December 1985.

At the subsequent meeting in Geneva, it was agreed by all parties that the convent would be relocated and a new building would be erected just outside the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex to serve as a center of information, education, meeting and prayer for all faiths.

Loranc’s letter to Riegner affirmed this. He said the archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, has been informed of specific sites outside Auschwitz that are suitable for the projected center.

He stated in his letter, “This center will promote a climate of reflection and deep respect for all victims of the Nazi extermination and for their sufferings, which will forever remain symbolized by Auschwitz.”

Riegner said he is now awaiting a decision on where it will be built, as well as the construction plans.

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