Anti-Semitism and Holocaust

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Demonstrators slam 'desecration' of Auschwitz by disco, shopping center, church and crosses
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(IsraelWire-10/6-2000) The demonstrators were deeply upset, and their bullhorn-charged staccato chants reverberated off the walls of the ornate Polish Consulate in midtown Manhattan Wednesday afternoon: "Close the disco at Auschwitz! Move the church from Birkenau!" "Shame on Poland! No Auschwitz shopping center!" The Nazi death camp Auschwitz, which is in Poland, is symbolic of the full horror of the Holocaust.

Although the protest was triggered by the Polish government's refusal to shut a newly-opened disco in a building used by the Nazis to work and murder Auschwitz slave laborers, the dozens of demonstrators also cited the Polish authorities' authorization of a shopping center directly across from the Auschwitz camp, a September Polish court decision which will permit anti-Semites to re-erect hundreds of crosses at Auschwitz, and the continued presence of a church in the former SS headquarters building at Auschwitz's killing grounds, Birkenau.

The demonstration was sponsored by Shalom International and the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha. Standing across from a huge red and white Polish flag flying from the consulate, protesters held aloft signs such as "Shame on Poland for Desecrating Memory of Auschwitz victims!"

SI's chairman Bob Kunst noted, "We're demonstrating as Palestinian rioting continues in Israel. Jews are under attack, whether it be their memory at Auschwitz or right now in the Mideast. What's being done at Auschwitz sets the tone for memorialization at the other former Nazi death camps: the disco, shopping center and crosses trivialize, commercialize and revise the horror of the Holocaust. We'll return here as long as it takes to get these outrages stopped.

"If commercialism of Auschwitz is so important to the Polish authorities, let's turn the tables and institute an economic boycott of Poland, including cutting off American foreign aid."

CJC-Amcha national president Rabbi Avi Weiss put the controversy into longer perspective: "The disco and shopping center are horrors, but the greatest violation of the memory of the Six Million is the church at Birkenau. It was from the SS headquarters, now the church, that the orders to exterminate were given, where Jewish women were raped and murdered.

"The church is the best example of an attempt to Christianize the Nazi camps. Fifty years from now, when there are no living Holocaust survivors, a visitor to Auschwitz will find crosses and this church, and be led to believe that the Holocaust was aimed at Catholics or that the Church as a whole protected Jews during this period. That's why the move is on now to confer sainthood on Pope Pius XII, who led the Church during the War.

"We've been accused of being anti-Catholic. That's simply not true. We have deep respect for all beliefs. But we take exception to a church placed in the largest Jewish cemetery in the world."

SI announced that the next demonstration at the Polish Consulate, Madison Avenue & 37th Street, Manhattan, will be on Sunday, November 26th at 1:00pm. For information, one may call (212) 663-5784

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