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Auschwitz, camp of horror visited by last three popes


Jan. 27 is the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

POPE FRANCIS
If we lose our memory, we destroy the future. The anniversary of the indescribable cruelty humanity discovered 75 years ago is a call to stop, be silent and make memory. We need this to not become indifferent.

An estimated 1.1 million people lost their lives in the Auschwitz-Birkenau compound during its four years of operation.

This camp of horror caused the last three popes to feel the same pain. 

John Paul II was there in 1979. It was an especially significant visit for him, since he had experienced first-hand, the suffering caused by totalitarianism.

However, it was a German pope's visit that was more highly anticipated. Benedict XVI went to Auschwitz to pray in 2006.

BENEDICT XVI
In a place like this, words fail. In the end there can only be a shocked silence, a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God, 'Why Lord, did you remain silent?

That day, after Benedict's prayer, a rainbow appeared in the sky.

In front of so much pain, Pope Francis, in 2016, sat for 15 minutes of silent prayer. He also kissed some of the sites where so much suffering took place, like the execution wall.

POPE FRANCIS
How much pain! How much cruelty! How is it possible that we humans, created in the likeness of God, are capable of doing these things?

These sentiments permeated one of the darkest periods of the 20th century. Its history and those who died should be remembered, so this horror is never forgotten nor repeated in the future.

Daniel Díaz Vizzi
Translation: Claudia Torres