Pope announces visit to Auschwitz as guard on trial told, “He must of known”

Pope Francis will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in July, it has been announced.

He will visit the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland on July 29, on the third day of his visit to the country.

Two of his predecessors have also visited the camp, John Paul II – himself Polish – in 1979 and retired pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

At a service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in 1995, Pope John Paul II said: ‘Auschwitz, along with so many other concentration camps, remains the horribly eloquent symbol of totalitarianism. It is our duty to make a pilgrimage to these places, in mind and heart, on this 50th anniversary.’

And on Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, he famously bowed to pray for the tragic victims of the deadly camp as ‘a son of the German people’.

After his visit, he said: ‘In a place like this, words fail. In the end there can only be a dread silence, which is a heartfelt cry to God. Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?’

auschwitzThe news of the visit comes as a Nazi on trial for helping to murder 170,000 Jews at Auschwitz was told he must have known what was going on at the death camp, by a fellow guard.

Jakob Wendel, a former SS guard who was convicted and served time in Poland after the war, gave evidence against Reinhold Hanning at the hearing in Detmold, Germany.

Hanning, 94, has told investigators he never served in the part of the camp where most of its 1.1million victims were killed. But Wendel, 92, who arrived at the camp in 1942 but didn’t know Hanning, told the court that anyone there for an extended period ‘knew what was going on’.

‘We knew about the gas chambers…we knew what happened there,’ Wendel told the court today.


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