This is how Pope Francis greeted Alberto Mieli at the Great Synagogue of Rome. The 91-year-old survived two years at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
During his visit, Pope Francis honored the memory of all victims of the Holocaust.
January 17, 2016
"The Shoah teaches us to always maintain the highest level of vigilance, in order to be able to intervene immediately in defense of human dignity and peace. I should like to express my closeness to every witness of the Shoah still living; and I extend my personal greeting to those of you who are present here.”
It's the same message Alberto has repeated since his nightmare in Auschwitz ended. He especially wants young people to keep in mind that hate only leads to evil.
"Never have hate, resentment, or desire for revenge. Because those three factors create a vicious cycle that always gives the same result: death and mourning. Therefore, it's always necessary to seek peace.”
In his new book, "We Were Jews,” he describes being deported from Rome in October 1943, as well as his two years in a concentration camp. His grandaughter helped him write the book. Although he never forget what happened to him, he said it's still difficult to find the words to describe it.
"Being in Auschwitz for almost two years is something...I don't know how to explain it but...what I saw was the highest form of evil, the worst of humanity, the evil that one person can do to another.”
It took him decades to reach the point of able to describe some of the most difficult moments in his life, which were filled with unexpected cruelty.
MSGR. MARCO GNAVI
Jewish-Catholic Dialogue Commission
"The book is a call to consciences. It is also Alberto opening up this painful memory. We don't forget that he only began to speak about this four decades after he lived through the Holocaust in his own skin.”
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who wrote the prologue, attended the book's presentation at Vatican Radio headquarters. He placed a kippa on his head to show respect for the Jewish people in commemoration of the Day of Remembrance. It's an event celebrated internationally to mark when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz.
The book ends with a blessing for children, expressing Alberto's wish. The survivor wants to leave behind just one idea with his book. It's a simple idea, but one that has been difficult to put into practice throughout history.
"Man must get it through his head that we must love our neighbors.”