May 31, 2006

Pope, following criticism, condemns anti-Semitism

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, speaking after some
Jewish groups complained that his recent speech at the
Auschwitz former Nazi concentration camp was not strong enough,
on Wednesday explicitly condemned anti-Semitism.

The 79-year-old German Pope made his comments at his weekly
general audience in a speech recalling his four-day trip to
Poland last week to pay homage to his predecessor John Paul.

Wednesday's address appeared to be at least in part a
response to some of the criticism leveled by Jews who said he
should have been more specific and less theological at

"In the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, as in other similar ones,
Hitler ordered the extermination of more than six million
Jews," he told tens of thousands of people in St Peter's

"In Auschwitz-Birkenau, 150,000 Poles were also killed,
along with tens of thousands of men and women of other
nationalities," he said.

"Today's humanity must not forget Auschwitz and the other
'factories of death' where the Nazi regime tried to eliminate
God in order to take his place," he said. "Humanity must not
give in to the temptation of racial hatred, which is at the
origin of the worst forms of anti-Semitism."

Ending a four-day pilgrimage to Poland on Sunday, the
Pontiff reflected on how hard it was for a German to visit the
former Nazi death camp and how challenging the evil committed
there was for anyone who believed in a loving God.

In his speech at the camp, he called himself "a son of
Germany" and asked why God was silent when 1.5 million victims,
mostly Jews, died "in this place of horror."

At the camp, the Pope twice used the world 'shoah,' the
Hebrew term for the Holocaust, and said that the leaders of the
Third Reich wanted to "crush the entire Jewish people (and)
cancel them from the register of the peoples of the earth."

But some Jewish leaders faulted him for not clearly
mentioning anti-Semitism, others for saying Germany was taken
over by criminals in the 1930s, as if Hitler had not had any
popular support.

"We are deeply troubled by the Pontiff's failure to
explicitly address the vicious anti-Semitism that led to the
murder of more than 1.5 million Jews on the ground where he
stood," Abraham Foxman, national director of the
Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement.

"Standing at the crematoria, the world's largest Jewish
cemetery, the Pope uttered not one world about anti-Semitism;
not one explicit acknowledgement of Jewish lives vanquished
simply because they were Jews," Foxman said.

The pope's speech at Auschwitz had also been criticized by
a number of Jewish religious leaders, including Rome's chief
rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and Amos Luzzatto, former president of
Italy's Jewish communities.

"We had hoped for more, and the world deserved a simpler
and more direct lesson from this pastor and preacher," Foxman