Pope Francis called on Edith Bruck, the 88-year-old Hungarian-born Italian poet, playwright, director, novelist, and translator who survived Auschwitz, Dachau, Christianstadt, and Bergen-Belsen.
A communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See said the visit lasted about an hour. “The conversation with the pope revisited those moments of light, with which the experience of the hell of the camps was interspersed,” the communiqué said.
“[The conversation also] evoked the fears and hopes for the time in which we live, stressing the value of memory and the role of the elderly in cultivating and passing it on to younger generations.”
The Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper interviewed Bruck in connection with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Vatican News reports that her witness moved Pope Francis, who then desired to pay her a visit.
“I have come here to thank you for your testimony and to pay homage to the people martyred by the insanity of Nazi populism,” Vatican News quoted Pope Francis as saying to Bruck. “And with sincerity I repeat to you the words that I spoke from my heart at Yad Vashem and that I repeat before every person who, like you, has suffered so much because of this: [I ask] forgiveness, O Lord, in the name of humanity.”
Edith Bruck has spent much of her life travelling throughout Italy to bring her witness, especially to secondary schools and university audiences. She also cared for her husband, renowned poet and director Nelo Risi, during the long years of his decline. Risi died in 2015, aged 95, after more than a decade of suffering from a neurodegenerative disease.
The previously unannounced visit took place on Saturday afternoon from about 4pm to 5pm CET, at the poet’s house in Rome.
Cover image: Pope Francis with Edith Bruck, 20 February 2021. Image courtesy of Vatican Media.