Europe Observes a "Day of Memory" for the Holocaust

On Anniversary of 1945 Liberation of Auschwitz

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ROME, JAN. 29, 2003 ( A number of European countries observed a «Day of Memory» for the victims of the Holocaust, and also recalled the people who risked their lives to oppose the Nazi slaughter.

The Soviet army arrived at Auschwitz death camp on Jan. 27, 1945, abandoned a few days earlier by the German SS, and liberated the last survivors of the Nazi butchery.

«It is absolutely necessary to remember; to remember helps to prevent,» Archbishop Giuseppe Chiaretti of Perugia said Monday. The archbishop is in charge of the Italian bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenism and Dialogue.

«A people that does not remember is destined to repeat the errors it has forgotten,» he told the Vatican agency Fides. «It is necessary to remember, also by observing the tragic situations of today: Humanity is always at the edge of a precipice; it is capable of repeating these tragedies.»

If the genocide of Jews was directed to the elimination of a culture, in other cases, «such as the disabled and homosexuals, there was the idea of an ethnic cleansing based on contempt for man’s dignity, in the arrogant exaltation of some to the detriment of others,» he added.

«A great lesson of civilization arises from this day: to learn to respect others […], to relate to everyone despite physical, ethnic, cultural or religious differences,» Archbishop Chiaretti concluded. «This day teaches us to establish in this world Trinitarian relations, based on love and mercy.»

Historian Bruno Segre, director of Keshet magazine, explained over Vatican Radio that «to recall the memory of the Shoah makes sense if it enables us to live in a more prudent way, with eyes open to our present, and to attempt to project a better future.»

Segre himself suffered persecution when at age 8 he was expelled from school together with other Jewish children. It was 1938, and the racial laws prohibiting Jews’ access to Italian schools had been promulgated.

In 1943, when Italy was invaded by the Germans, «we had to flee and seek refuge in the central-southern region of the country.» He remained there for nine months, hidden «by people to whom I owe my life.»

Among the «righteous» who risked their lives to save Jews is Giovanni Palatucci, chief of police of Fiume, who died at age 36 in the Dachau camp. He had saved more than 5,000 Jews. The Church opened his cause of beatification Oct. 9.

«During the racial laws of 1938, he became an authentic Christian witness, not only Righteous among the Nations,» said Father Gianfranco Zuncheddu, chaplain of the state police and postulator of the cause of beatification.

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