July 10, 2022
On July 9, 2022, Stefan Wilkanowicz, one of the great wise people of dialogue in Poland, who had a significant impact on social life after the political change of 1989, died at the age of 98.
The Center for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim also owes him a lot.
As early as 1970, the Catholic magazine ZNAK, of which he later became editor-in-chief for many years, published a volume entitled “Auschwitz Retraits”, in which Polish and German authors jointly reflect on how to appropriately deal with the memory of Auschwitz. The associated challenges shaped him throughout his life.
When Christian-Jewish tensions arose around the Carmelite convent in Oświęcim in the 1980s, he was involved from the start in finding a solution based on mutual understanding and respect. The volume Auschwitz. Conflicts and dialog, Kraków 1988, which he co-edited, bears witness to this.
When the Kraków Foundation Centre for Information, Encounter, Dialogue, Education and Prayer was established, Cardinal Macharski appointed Stefan Wilkanowicz to the International Program Council.
Since then he has been involved in many international and interreligious encounters in our Centre, some of which he initiated himself.
Since 2000 he has been on the board of the International Council of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial. It goes too far to list all his numerous engagements.
I would like to mention that in 2005 he met with young people in our Centre to hear from them where they see current dangers, what they think can be done about them and where they see hope. He came to hear, not to teach!
He was convinced that every European should seriously consider three questions: 1. Why Auschwitz? 2. Why Kolyma? 3. Why Sarajevo? Today he would surely add: 4. Why Ukraine?
We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Stefan Wilkanowicz because he challenges us to tackle challenges and set them on a path of mutual respect and reconciliation.
Stefan Wilkanowicz was deeply rooted in his Christian faith. May God reward him for all the good, forgive mistakes and give him the longed for peace that this world cannot give.
on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Center for Dialogue and Prayer in Oswiecim,
Fr. Dr. Manfred Deselaers
July 10, 2022