Pope John Paul II in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, March 2000. Photo: Isaac Harari
03 April 2005
Following the death of Pope John Paul II, Yad Vashem has issued the following statement:
Yad Vashem offers its condolences upon the passing of Pope John Paul II, a Pope who made great efforts to come to terms with the role of the Catholic Church in the period of the Holocaust.
Five years ago Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to Yad Vashem, where he paid homage to the millions of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust. At a momentous memorial service in the Hall of Remembrance the Pope rekindled the eternal flame and said: “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 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 remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail,” he said. “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.” The Pope also met six Holocaust survivors, Prof. Shlomo Breznitz, Prof. Israel Gutman, Yvonne Razon, Daniela Steinmatz, Edith Tzirer and Eli Zborowski.
Pope John Paul II leaves a legacy of deep commitment to the memory of the Holocaust and its continued relevance, which has left an indelible mark on Christianity.
At his request, the note which the Pope placed in the Western Wall is kept for posterity at Yad Vashem.
Yad Vashem would like to clarify that today’s report in Ma’ariv has no basis in fact. There are stringent criteria for recognizing Righteous Among the Nations foremost among them being that a person has risked his life to save Jews during the Holocaust. The incident described in Ma’ariv, while noble and commendable took place in 1946, after the end of the war, and did not involve saving Jews, and therefore is not relevant to the Righteous Among the Nations designation.