Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the systematic murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, calling on the Catholic faithful worldwide and all persons of good will to protect the memory of the dark chapter in human history.
“Remembering is an expression of humanity,” Pope Francis said. “Remembering is a sign of civilization,” he continued. “Remembering is a condition for a better future of peace and fraternity.”
The Holy Father made his remarks during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, 27 January, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The United Nations officially declared the Day in the year 2005, to ensure the memory of the six million Jewish victims of Nazi terror is never extinguished and teach future generations of the horror.
Five years before, in January 2000, representatives of forty-six governments worldwide met in Stockholm and issued a declaration establishing the day in their respective countries.
“The magnitude of the Holocaust, planned and carried out by the Nazis, must be forever seared in our collective memory,” the Stockholm Declaration proclaims. “The selfless sacrifices of those who defied the Nazis, and sometimes gave their own lives to protect or rescue the Holocaust’s victims, must also be inscribed in our hearts.”
“The depths of that horror,” the Declaration goes on to say, “and the heights of their heroism, can be touchstones in our understanding of the human capacity for evil and for good.”
The date of 27 January marks the anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of Nazis’ Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex.
“Remembering also means being careful,” said Pope Francis on Wednesday, “because these things could happen again, beginning with ideological proposals intended to save a people and ending by destroying a people and humanity.”
Anti-Semitic violence and harassment has been on the rise in recent years, including a mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. One of the rioters who stormed the US Capitol was wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirt. A similar article was being sold on e-commerce site Etsy until the company pulled the offering in the wake of outrage.
In Germany in October of 2019, a man armed with firearms and explosives and equipped with a camera attempted to carry out a massacre on a synagogue in Halle during services on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
“If I fail and die but kill a single Jew, it was worth it,” the 27-year-old attacker wrote in a manifesto. “After all, if every White Man kills just one, we win.”
Unable to gain entry to the house of worship, he shot and killed a woman on the street near the synagogue door, then drove to a nearby kebab shop and killed another man. He shot and wounded two other people.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Pope Francis urged vigilance, saying we must be attentive “to how this path of death, of extermination, and brutality begin.”