My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis
occupied Poland during the war. I remember my Jewish friends and
neighbours, some of whom perished, while others survived. I have
come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people
who, stripped of everything, especially of human dignity, were
murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but
the memories remain.
Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are
overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men,
women and children, cry out to us from the depths of the horror that
they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or
ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.
We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely
to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the
millions of innocent victims of Nazism.
How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had
reached the point of contempt for God. Only a godless ideology could
plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people.
The honour given to the 'Just Gentiles' by the state of Israel at
Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to
the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even
in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the
Psalms and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity
for evil, also proclaims that evil will not have the last word.
Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer's heart cries
out: "I trust in you, O Lord: 'I say, you are my God."'
Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing
from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our
spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We
remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive
to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and
to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with
justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible
crimes of the past.
As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the
Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law
of truth and love, and by no political considerations, is deeply
saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of
anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time
and in any place.
The church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of
the Creator inherent in every human being.
In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our
sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th
century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews.
Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish
feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but
rather the mutual respect required of those who adore the one
Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our common father in faith.
The world must heed the warning that comes to us from the victims of
the Holocaust, and from the testimony of the survivors. Here at Yad
Vashem the memory lives on, and burns itself onto our souls. It
makes us cry out: "I hear the whispering of many - terror on every
side - but I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'You are my God."
The Holocaust speech
by Pope John Paul II