Muslim leaders pray at Auschwitz during a Holocaust awareness visit
Muslim leaders from across the globe knelt in prayer for the Holocaust dead at the Auschwitz’s notorious Wall of Death on Wednesday, in an emotional visit to the Nazi German death camp in southern Poland.
Imams from Bosnia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States offered traditional Muslim “salat” prayers facing south towards their holy city of Mecca, shoes removed, during a Holocaust awareness visit to the site.
Thousands of Auschwitz prisoners perished at the wall, which is grey and still riddled with bullet holes. It is a stone’s throw from the infamous wrought iron “Arbeit macht frei” (Work makes you free) gate at the camp’s entrance.
“What can you say? You’re speechless. What you have seen is beyond human imagination,” a visibly moved Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), told AFP after prayers and viewing the camp’s infamous gas chamber and crematoria.
“Whether in Europe today or in the Muslim world, my call to humanity: End racism, for God’s sake, end anti-Semitism, for God’s sake, end Islamophobia for God’s sake, end sexism for God’s sake… Enough is enough,” he said.
“When I saw what happened for the people here, I tried to prevent my tears from my eyes because its very difficult to see how many people were killed without any reason,” Palestinian Imam Barakat Hasan from Ramallah said.
“I am from Palestine and my people are suffering now since 65 years until now, so of course I feel for others who have suffering,” he added.
The visit was part of a Holocaust awareness and anti-genocide programme organised in part by the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
Of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, a million were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, mostly in its notorious gas chambers, along with tens of thousands of others including Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.
Operated by the Nazis from 1940 until it was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was part of a vast and brutal network of death and concentration camps across Europe set up as part of Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution” of genocide against an estimated 10 million European Jews.
Once Europe’s Jewish heartland, Poland saw 90 percent of its 3.3 million pre-war Jews wiped out under Nazi German occupation between 1939-45.
Some of the imams wept at an emotional meeting Tuesday with Jewish Holocaust survivors and their Polish Catholic saviours who told stories of their war-time sacrifice and survival at Warsaw’s Nozyk Synagogue.
Earlier Tuesday, the group visited the Polish capital’s new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, in the heart of city’s pre-war Jewish community which became the infamous Warsaw ghetto under the Nazis.
The sprawling venue highlights nearly a millennium of Jewish life in Poland obliterated by the Holocaust.
A soaring rupture opening on to undulating walls marks its facade, an allusion to Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea, through which Moses led the Jews fleeing slavery in Egypt to freedom, a narrative shared by the Torah, the Bible and the Quran.