Muslim Leaders Make Unprecedented Auschwitz Visit

World | May 24, 2013, Friday // 19:06
Bulgaria: Muslim Leaders Make Unprecedented Auschwitz Visit The visitors stopped to pray beside an execution wall. Photo by BBC

Muslim leaders from around the world have taken part in an unprecedented trip to Germany and Poland to see and hear for themselves about the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, BBC reported.

The 11 imams, sheiks and religious teachers from nine countries met a Holocaust survivor and Poles whose families risked execution to save Jews from the Nazis, in the Polish capital's Nozyk Synagogue as part of the tour.

They have been around museums, including the recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews on the site of the former Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. And they also visited the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps.

"The main aim is to get Muslims who are leaders all over the world, particularly in the Middle East, to acknowledge the reality of what happened here and to be able to teach it to the people that they lead," said trip organiser Rabbi Jack Bemporad, who is executive director of the US-based Center for Interreligious Understanding.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, set up by the Germans in Nazi-occupied Poland, is largely intact and is now a museum. Historians estimate 1.1 million people were killed there - one million of them were Jews but there were also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others.

"I think that when someone wants to deny the Holocaust or think that it is exaggerated, which many of them do and certainly many of their followers do, when they come here and see it, their experience is such that they can no longer think that," Rabbi Bemporad said.

Beside the ruins of one of the gas chambers - the Germans blew them up as they retreated, in an effort to hide their crimes - the Muslim leaders paused for a moment's silence.

"You may read every book about the Holocaust but it's nothing like when you see this place where people were burned," said Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

"This is the building, the bricks. If they were to speak to you and I, they would tell you how many cries and screams they have heard."

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Tags: Holocaust, Jews, Jewish, Germany, Poland
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