Manfred Deselaers

The Significance of Perspectives

for a Theology after Auschwitz1

The point of departure for all theology is the admonition of St. Peter:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.2

Questions about faith result from experiences that cause doubt. Therefore, testimonies and justifications of faith are responses to concrete experiences and to concrete persons, who on the basis of their own experiences ask us about the meaning of our faith.

Just as the earthquake of Lisbon in the year 1755 initiated a wave of theological reflections, the memory of “Auschwitz“ has led to one of the greatest theological challenges in our days. “Where was God in Auschwitz?” “How can God be good and almighty if He allows Auschwitz to happen?” Who does not know these and similar questions? Also the questions “Where was the human being?” “Where were the Christians, where was the Church?” challenge our testimony of faith, but they also purify it. Profession of faith and examination of conscience always belong together.
In order to be able to reply to these challenging questions in a meaningful way, we have to take the reference point of the question seriously: What is it that we talk about when we say “Auschwitz”? What precisely happened in the former concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz with its sub camps, Birkenau in particular, and why? And what is meant when Auschwitz is used as a symbolic word for a larger context? The first effort of a theology after Auschwitz therefore is to take the point of reference Auschwitz seriously and to get to know it as far as possible.

Interpreting an experience always means relating it to other experiences and to the meaning that these experiences have for our understanding of the world. The same experience will be perceived in a different way if seen in a different context, for instance, still within the framework of God’s love to me or no longer within this framework. The problems that arise due to the impossibility of integrating the new experience of Auschwitz into the traditional terms of interpretation are directly related to the varying referential contexts of the enquirer. The second effort of a theology after Auschwitz therefore consists in understanding the context of reference from which the questions arise.

The relationship to Auschwitz as an event as well as the context of faith often varies greatly between the enquirer and the respondent. The answers which we give arise from our own worldview to which the new experience is being related. It is therefore very easy to misunderstand one another. The third effort of a theology after Auschwitz consists therefore in the account concerning one’s relation to the experience of “Auschwitz” and concerning the religious context from which both the query and the reply arise.


The Facts

The word “Auschwitz” first of all represents a very specific historical event from which all symbolic meanings derive. Therefore, it is necessary to ask what constitutes this historical event.

“Auschwitz” is the German name for a Polish town which was incorporated into the German Reich after Poland was invaded in 1939 and abolished as a state. To eliminate the Polish resistance and the Polish ruling elite, a concentration camp, which expanded quickly, was established in this town in 1940. In 1941 after the German attack on the Soviet Union, Soviet prisoners of war were taken to the camp. From 1942 onwards mass transports of Jews were brought there. In 1943 so-called “gypsies” – Sinti and Roma – and many others were also brought including political opponents, criminals, so-called anti-social elements, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals – from Czechoslovakia, Belarus, France, Russia, Yugoslavia, Ukraine and other countries, Germany included. Nine villages in the surrounding area were demolished and their inhabitants evicted, arrested or murdered in order to create the “Interessengebiet Auschwitz” (area of interest), 40 km² wide. Approximately 40 sub camps developed, about half of them at industrial plants, half at farms, many outside the area of interest.

Those who were taken to the camp as prisoners were no longer treated as human beings but as numbered labour. The average survival time of a prisoner was ten months. The degree of dehumanization, the terror, the threatening nearness of death is inconceivable to us today. Even former prisoners often cannot describe it. It is unthinkable how human beings can do this to other human beings. But it really did happen.

About 150,000 Polish prisoners were taken to the camp, and half of them were murdered. About 15,000 Russian prisoners-of-war were taken to the camp, and almost all were murdered. About one million Jews were taken to Auschwitz; most of them were not sent into the camps as prisoners but were immediately murdered in gas chambers. About 200,000 were taken to the camps, and half this number perished there. About 23,000 Sinti and Roma were taken to the camps, and almost all were murdered. These are the major groups of victims. There are no graves; the ashes of the incinerated bodies were scattered. It is impossible to picture the abyss in which more than a million human beings vanished without a trace.

Our understanding will always only be an approximation, always only a surmising. And yet, this approximation, our attempt at getting to know the whole truth is necessary for the sheer respect that we owe the victims. Without this attempt, we cannot authentically speak of a “Theology after Auschwitz.” Theology after Auschwitz begins with silence and with listening to the voices of the victims, to the voice of this land of Auschwitz.

The Symbol

Auschwitz was the largest concentration and extermination camp of the Third Reich, but not the only one. In its significance it stands, therefore, symbolically also for greater contexts. For example:

In Auschwitz we do not only think of the Jews who were murdered here but also of the whole tragedy of the Jews in Europe during Hitler’s regime. It has become the symbol of the Holocaust of the Jews, the Shoah.

Auschwitz is a symbol of the fate of Poland during the Second World War.

Auschwitz is a symbol of the fate of the Sinti and Roma during the Second World War and of a continuing history of their discrimination.

The Soviet Army liberated the last prisoners in 1945; in the states of the former Soviet Union, the liberation of these prisoners is an important symbol of the memory of the “Great Patriotic War“,  of the liberation of Europe from Fascism.

Auschwitz possesses a great symbolic meaning for the fight of political prisoners from many countries, Socialists, Communists, and other resistance groups.

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the memory of non-violence, persecution and death as a testimony of faith in Auschwitz is important.

For homosexuals who were one of the categories of prisoners even if there were only a few prisoners registered as homosexual, Auschwitz has acquired a symbolic significance for the Gay Movement.

For Germany, Auschwitz is an admonishing memory of the greatest failure and a call for conversion to good relationships with the various groups of former victims.

The Wound

Whoever takes Auschwitz seriously touches a wound which has not yet healed. It rouses a disquietude in us which is not easy to soothe. When a wound is touched, the reaction at times can be very emotional and “not objective”. Often the essence cannot be grasped and expressed in words. Sometimes it is better to remain silent rather than to speak. Often it is better not to touch the wound directly but to strengthen the life around it. But it is wrong to turn away. The issue, therefore, is a theology that takes the wound seriously.

This wound has to do with our own identity. Who, how, where would I have been then? Where do I turn for guidance, what do I really believe in? Who am I in my responsibility before human beings and before God? If it is difficult for me to answer these questions for myself, I have to admit that I understand even less what the memory of Auschwitz means for the other person whom I meet. Dialogue after Auschwitz is an encounter between wounded people.

This wound is not only in us; it also is in our relationships. Auschwitz did not begin with the murder of human beings. Auschwitz began with the annihilation of relationships between human beings. Poles were regarded as work animals, Jews as vermin. One could therefore have a clear conscience killing them. The questions which the memory of Auschwitz raises in theology, therefore, affects ethics maybe even more than dogmatic and fundamental theology. Healing after Auschwitz is the story of relations. Dialogue after Auschwitz begins with building confidence. Dialogue begins with silence and listening, listening to one another. This requires that I accept the other person and respect him or her as they are, in their otherness, with their wounds. The most important task of dialogue is the preparation of such an atmosphere of trust, of the ante-room as it were, so that the trust to enter may be established, and then to discuss in the living-room, convinced of mutual trustfulness. That also has a theological dimension.

In Auschwitz everything begins with silence and listening: silence and listening to the voice of this land of Auschwitz – what happened here at that time? Silence and listening to the voice of one’s own heart – what does this mean for me? Silence and listening to one another – what does it mean for you, and for our relationship with one another? Silence and listening to God….

The wound also exists in our relation to God. Pope Benedict XVI himself said on the occasion of his visit to Birkenau:

In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence – a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this? In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here.3

Testimonies of faith which do not result from a struggle with the challenge of this memory, which means from a respect for the victims, easily become empty phrases and an insult because they lack reverence.

In the following paragraphs, I will briefly outline (a necessary abridgement) three theological perspectives of Auschwitz: those of Catholic Poles, Religious Jews, and Christian Germans. It should above all become clear how strong the respective backgrounds are and therefore also the differences, which involuntarily become part of the dialogue about Auschwitz. I will go into more detail concerning the Polish perspective as it is the least known of the three.

The Polish Perspective

Nazism and Communism

The Poles recall a twofold aspect of the Second World War which began on September 1, 1939, with the invasion by Nazi Germany and on September 17 of that very same year with the invasion by the Soviet Union. Both systems were anti-Christian: neo-pagan National Socialism and atheistic-materialist Communism. Both systems aimed at the destruction of Polish independence and Polish identity. Both systems liquidated the military opposition and the elite of the nation.
These experiences follow a long history of struggling for an independent existence within the boundaries of Europe. At the end of the First World War, after 123 years of not existing on the map of Europe and numerous uprisings, Poland finally won the struggle for an independent existence. It was to last only 21 years.

Christian Roots

From the beginning, Poland was connected with Christianity and the Catholic Church, which – as it were – is the backbone of Poland’s national identity. The baptism of Poland in 966 was at the same time the beginning of its national existence as well as its Christianization. In 1386, the Polish-Lithuanian Union came into existence, resulting in the Christianization of Lithuanian territories in the Latin rite. At the time of the Nobles’ Republic (from 1505 onwards), the king – often a foreigner – was elected. Stability in the country was then guaranteed by the Polish Primate as Interrex of the republic of the two states. In 1656, after an assault by the Swedes and their retreat from Poland, King Jan Kazimierz elevated Our Lady as Queen of the Polish Crown and subsequently made solemn promises of dedication. Mary, the Mother of God, has been worshipped as Patroness and Queen of Poland ever since that time.

In 1791, the parliament (Sejm Wielki) proclaimed the constitution of May 3, the first paragraph of which specifically stipulates that “the ruling national religion is and will be the holy Roman Catholic faith.” At the same time, parliament guaranteed respect for other denominations as well as freedom of religion. Shortly afterwards, Poland disappeared from the map of Europe. In the Russian, Prussian and Austrian partitioning territories, Polish was still spoken in the churches. It was there that one could still feel Polish.

The Polish spirit developed especially among the Parisian émigrés, where the vision of freedom coalesced with a messianic vision. Adam Mickiewicz wrote:

And finally Poland said: ‘Whosoever will come to me shall be free and equal, for I am FREEDOM’. But the Kings when they heard this were frightened in their hearts, and said,… ‘Come, let us slay this nation.’ And they conspired together…. And they crucified the Polish Nation, and laid it in its grave, and cried out ‘We have slain and buried Freedom.’ But they cried out foolishly … For the Polish Nation did not die. Its body lies in the grave, but its spirit has descended into the abyss, that is into the private lives of people who suffer slavery in their country … But on the third day the soul shall return again into the body, and the Nation shall arise, and free all the peoples of Europe from slavery.4

The certainty that God is on the side of the Polish people and Mary, Mother of God, the protectress of the home country (“ojczyzna” – in Polish feminine despite the word stem “father” – “mother country”), was deeply rooted in the people’s conviction. This was linked to the tradition which saw a deep meaning in martyrdom: it is worthwhile remaining faithful to God, the fatherland (the mother) and its values, in spite of suffering, in spite of death. The blood of the martyrs bears fruit. After death, resurrection follows as a gift from God.

When Poland regained its nationhood after 123 years of non-existence on the map of Europe, the preamble to the constitution of 1921 began with the words:

In the Name of Almighty God! We, the people of Poland, thank Providence for freeing us from one and a half centuries of servitude…5

The new, independent Poland is described as a gift from God.

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 again destroyed the Polish state. So was there no resurrection after all? However, the faith did not die under the influence of the occupation, even though it was greatly tested. The oath of the Polish underground army (Home Army) in the Second World War read:

Before God Almighty and Mary the Blessed Virgin, Queen of the Polish Crown, I lay my hand on this Holy Cross, the symbol of Passion and Redemption. I solemnly swear to defend the honour of Poland with all my might and to fight with the weapon in my hand to free my mother country from bondage, prepared to sacrifice my own life if that is needed.6


There are a great number of witnesses to the Christian faith from the wartime, including Auschwitz.

In a secret message to his wife, Wacław Stacherski writes from his prison cell in Block 11, before his execution on September 9, 1944:

Oh Iris! God exists, even if it is so difficult to believe in Him here. Yesterday, Sunday, through the cell window, I heard a Mass being said that was celebrated secretly on the ground floor. That brings to mind the early Christian time of the catacombs. God alone knows whether there were more saints and martyrs – in Rome or in Auschwitz.7

In Poland, Father Maximilian Kolbe, who in the camp sacrificed his life for a fellow prisoner, became the symbol of the victory of love resulting from the power of faith in a world of hatred. In the post-war period, Auschwitz played an important role in official Communist education, since it was seen as a symbol of the liberation of both the camp and Europe from Fascism by the Soviet Union. One deliberately did not want a religious dimension to be connected with the camp. Against this background, the veneration of Maximilian Kolbe, which grew after his beatification in 1971, represented a different, a religious perspective of the memory of Auschwitz.

The largest Catholic youth movement in Poland, “Oasis“, was founded after the War by the priest Franciszek Blachniki, a former Auschwitz prisoner. He experienced a conversion while awaiting the execution of his death sentence. Surprisingly, his death sentence was not carried out. From that moment on, he was convinced that true freedom is spiritual and that human beings who are deeply rooted in prayer and put their trust in Christ need not fear those who wield power. That is the source of a Polish liberation theology. Later, members of the Oasis-Movement played a vital role in the peaceful revolution of Solidarność.

John Paul II

Karol Wojtyła, who was born in Wadowice, not far from Oświęcim, and grew up there together with Jewish friends, decided during the War to become a priest. As Bishop of the diocese of Cracow, to which Oświęcim then belonged8, and as Pope John Paul II (from 1978), he looked upon his mission as an answer to his experiences during the war. In 1979, he said on the grounds of the former Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau:

Can it still be a surprise to anyone that the Pope born and brought up in this land, the Pope who came to the See of Saint Peter from the diocese in whose territory is situated the camp of Oswiecim, should have begun his first Encyclical with the words “Redemptor Hominis” and should have dedicated it as a whole to the cause of man, to the dignity of man, to the threats to him, and finally to his inalienable rights?9

Following the Pope’s first pilgrimage to Poland (1979), and after the formation of the free trade union Solidarność (1980) and the proclamation of martial law in 1981, the canonization of Father Maximilian Kolbe (1982), had the effect of an appeal not to be defeated but to overcome evil by goodness. During his second pilgrimage to Poland (1983), the Pope said:

What does it mean that love is more powerful than death? It also means: ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,’ according to the teaching of Saint Paul (Romans 12.21). These words transmit the truth about Father Maximilian Kolbe’s deed in Auschwitz into various dimensions: the dimension of everyday life, the dimension of the epoch, the dimension of a difficult moment in history, the dimension of the twentieth century, and perhaps of the times to come. […] We want to enrich the Christian heritage of Poland by the impressive significance of Kolbe’s deed in Auschwitz: ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Dear brothers and sisters! An evangelical program. A difficult program – but possible. An indispensable one.10

The great roles that the Pope from Poland, the Church and the faith played on the road of the non-violent revolution, which brought the Dictatorship of Communism in Europe to an end, have added to the conviction that Christianity has emerged victorious from these experiences, essentially verified after Auschwitz and the Gulag. This perspective, which sees Christianity deeply connected with the dignity of man and the freedom of nations, clearly distinguishes Poland from other European countries. This is a background to the difficult discussions concerning the relationship of Catholic Poles to Poles of other denominations and to the Holocaust.

The Jewish Perspective


Before 1939, Jews had made their home mostly in Europe and above all in Polish territories. This Jewish world does not exist any longer. In a way, Hitler and his followers succeeded in what they set out to achieve – the so-called “Final Solution of the Jewish question in Europe.” Something like this was inconceivable before the war and remains hard to understand until today. Jews were not only cast out and murdered; before that, they were dehumanised by the Germans, declared vermin, disease carriers which had to be destroyed. And under German occupation Europe became organized accordingly: Jews were systematically searched, marked, separated, gathered and burnt in furnaces. How was that possible?

The Covenant

The most important religious point of reference for the Jewish perspective is the memory of the exodus from Egypt and the making of the Covenant at Mount Sinai:

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you[a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’11

This Covenant is the source of life for the people of Israel. In it, God’s love of His whole creation is proved true. In the course of history, many catastrophes have challenged God’s love and commitment. But the religious leaders have always been eager to show that it was the faithlessness and guilt of the people – not of God – that led to the catastrophe. That is especially true for the two-time destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (586 B.C. and 70 A.D.), the subsequent banishment into exile and the ending of the state of Israel. But it is not possible to accept Auschwitz as a punishment from God. The attempted eradication of the whole people, six million murdered human beings, among them almost the entire orthodox Jewish world of Eastern Europe and an infinite number of children, is not conceivable as an adequate response to any corresponding sin they might have committed. What has happened to the Covenant? Was the Shoah not worse than Egypt? Where was God?

The old categories do not fit any longer. But if Israel loses its relation to the Bible and to its promise, it loses its identity. That would be Hitler’s final victory, the ultimate annihilation of Israel. Never to allow this to happen is the new 614th commandment for Jews after Auschwitz, according to Emil Fackenheim. Elie Wiesel wrestles with God. He does not let go of the relationship, but before God can ask him “Where are you?” he, Wiesel, asks God “Where were you when my sister, my mother, my people were murdered?” The loyalty to the memory of the murdered ones becomes the starting point for all that follows.

Kiddush Hashem

Perhaps the issue is not to understand God but to stay faithful to Him in spite of everything.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.12
Jews were murdered for being Jews, willing or unwilling. Did they not in this way bear witness to God, even if against their will? Hallow the name of God: Kiddush Hashem?

In the long history of Judaism there has always been anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, martyrdom. Often a heavy price was paid for faithfulness. That is particularly true for the history of the Jews in Europe. Is that history not the precedent which made Auschwitz possible in Christian Europe? The ideology of National Socialism was also anti-Christian, but where did the notion come from that the Jews were the source of all evil? Did it not come indirectly from the Christian tradition which considered the Jews as the enemies of Christ and therefore as God’s enemies? Even if Christians did not wish Jews to be murdered, but to be baptised, why did they offer such little help? Do Christians not bear a share of the responsibility for what happened in Auschwitz? – These questions have also become crucial for a Christian examination of conscience “after Auschwitz.”

The State of Israel

Unlike the Poles, the Jews did not suffer the Holocaust as part of a fight for national independence. Granted, Zionism did already exist, but most Jews wanted to go on living peacefully among neighbours wherever they were already residing. The Shoah does not only mean a shock for their relationship to God but also a shock regarding their neighbours. Can one really trust them? During the War, many Jews did not even find a place where they could escape to.

The formation of the State of Israel, therefore, is for many Jews the most important answer to Auschwitz. At last they have a home which will always be willing to take them in. Maybe it is also a sign that God has not forsaken His people after all. And perhaps rather than Kiddush Hashem, martyrdom, the issue is Kiddush Hachaim, life. “Am Yisrael chai” – the People of Israel lives. It hurts all the more to recognize that in Israel the dream of Shalom is so hard to carry out and that a recurrence of Auschwitz does not appear to be impossible.

However, the issue is not only Israel and its particular people. The issue is human dignity throughout the world. For God is the Creator of the world and the Father of all human beings.

The German Perspective

When Germans come to visit Auschwitz today, it is not in order to remember and honour their compatriots and remain faithful to them. On the contrary, they underline that they are not Nazis, they are different Germans, and if they have come here to remember and honour anyone, then it is the victims. They did not create Auschwitz and did not want it to happen; they are honestly sorry, feel ashamed, and want to build a different world. They who are living today are not to blame personally, but there is this German guilt and somehow they must deal with it. Auschwitz admonishes that something went horribly wrong. That is the German wound after Auschwitz. Today, this reminder is part of the German identity as a permanent pang of conscience. In the city centre of Berlin stands the Brandenburg Gate. On one side of it is the Parliament Building and on the other side the Holocaust Memorial.

All this also characterizes German theology after Auschwitz. Wrestling with the deeply felt failure of one’s own Church defines those who are engaged in “Theology after Auschwitz”. Even if some Christians sacrificed their lives in the resistance, this is only true for a very small minority. Why did the German bishops remain silent when the Jewish shops were boycotted and the synagogues were burning? Why did they as pastors support the War? Almost all German soldiers were Christians…

Since it is so difficult, only a few German theologians really accept the challenge posed by the memory of Auschwitz. The most important one in this respect is Johann Baptist Metz, who calls for anamnesis instead of amnesia: remembering instead of forgetting.

Critical Approach

In its essence, therefore, German theology after Auschwitz is critical. It looks for the mistakes made in theology which led to that failure, and it attempts to search for new approaches that make a repetition of the mistakes impossible.

One approach is the discovery and accentuation of the Jewish dimension in Christian theology. Jesus was a Jew. God’s Covenant with the Jewish people was not superseded by the New Testament, but it continues to exist and as the Covenant of the living people of Israel it is of vital importance also for Christians.

It is more difficult to integrate the memory of the tragedy from the perspective of the victims into theology. This is what Metz attempts to do, stressing that after Auschwitz theology is no longer possible unless it is linked to the victims of Auschwitz who often lost their faith in God. That is why theological answers should not be given too quickly. What is needed is a theology as “Memoria Passionis”, which does not only recall the enduring presence of Jesus’ suffering on the Cross but also the tragedy of the Jews in Auschwitz. This theology does not so much place emphasis on the relation to God and prayer, but on the actual help given to the victims, thus becoming “Political Theology”.

Unlike Israel and Poland, Germany today has no theological reference to its own people. Since the Reformation with the subsequent religious wars and the “Peace of Augsburg“ Catholics and Protestants have been living there, and the state of Germany, which united territories with different religious backgrounds , has only existed since 1871. National Socialism attempted to establish a national identity on “Nordic Germanic” pre-Christian foundations. Large parts of the Protestant Church tried to give themselves a new identity as “German Christians.” These attempts have been completely discredited today. Any tendencies of nationalistic-religious or “völkisch” character are looked upon with great suspicion, wherever they may surface.

Forgiveness ?

The subject of forgiveness is rarely dealt with in German Theology after Auschwitz, since its mere mentioning would lead to the suspicion of it serving as an exculpation. The perpetrators cannot demand forgiveness; they may only receive it gratefully as an act of mercy. But who can forgive whom and in whose name? And what is to be said about the continuing effects of guilt on succeeding generations? As with other essential questions, the Discussion Group ‘Jews and Christians’ of the Central Committee of German Catholics has made important statements about these issues – as a united voice of Christians and Jews13.


The above shall suffice as a brief outline of the different perspectives. Yet, if they are so different as also are the theological languages, is dialogue possible at all? “Auschwitz” meant the destruction of relations between individuals, groups, peoples and religions. Healing, therefore, can only mean the healing of relationships. Relationships have to do with trust, and trust develops slowly in face-to-face encounters. Encounters require trust. We meet with open hearts and with confidence in each other.

In doing so our faith helps us. The dignity of the human person is a gift from God. The revelation of the Bible speaks of this in Genesis: “So God created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). By respecting this dignity, we respect God. This faith connects us already in spite of all the differences. To listen to one another with respect at the threshold of Auschwitz, even if the differences remain, is the most important response to Auschwitz and a most powerful testimony to our belief that God is Love.

We bring our reflections into these encounters. To express our faith after Auschwitz in such a way as to give the perspectives of the others room in our responses, is the greatest challenge to Theology after Auschwitz.

  • 1 Published in: Dialogue at the edge of Auschwitz. Perspectives for a Theology after Auschwitz. Krakow 2014, s. 13-29.
  • 2 1 Peter 3:15. All Bible quotations according to the New International Version.
  • 3 Pope Benedikt XVI, Address in Auschwitz-Birkenau, May 28, 2006.
  • 4 Adam Mickiewicz, Księgi narodu i pielgrzymstwa polskiego, ed. S. Pigoń (Cracow 1922), 53ff; in: Norman Davies, God’s Playground, Volume II, 2005, p.7.
  • 5 Sejm Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, Ustawa z dnia 17 marca 1921 r. – Konstytucja Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej. Original: „W Imię Boga Wszechmogącego! My, Naród Polski, dziękując Opatrzności za wyzwolenie nas z półtorawiekowej niewoli…”. (Retrieved 3.12.2013).
  • 6 „W obliczu Boga Wszechmogącego – i Najświętszej Marii Panny, Królowej Korony Polskiej, kładę swe ręce na ten Święty Krzyż, znak męki i zbawienia – i przysięgam, że będę wiernie i nieugięcie stał na straży honoru Polski, a o wyzwolenie Jej z niewoli walczyć będę ze wszystkich sił moich, aż do ofiary mego życia.” (Retrieved 12.12.2013).
  • 7 Quoted and translated from: Irena Pająk, Mieszkańcy Śląska, Podbeskidzia, Zagłębia Dąbrowskiego w Auschwitz. Księga Pamięci, vol. 1, Katowice 1998, p. 3.
  • 8 Since 1992 Oświęcim has been part of the newly founded diocese of Bielsko/Biała.
  • 9 John Paul II, Homily at the Birkenau Concentration Camp, 7 June 1979. (Retrieved 12.12.2013).
  • 10 John Paul II, Homily in Niepokalanow, 18 June 1983. “Co to znaczy, że miłość jest potężniejsza niż śmierć? To znaczy także: «Nie daj się zwyciężyć złu, ale zło dobrem zwyciężaj» (Rz 12, 21 ). Te słowa tłumaczą prawdę o czynie oświęcimskim ojca Maksymiliana na różne wymiary: na wymiar życia codziennego; ale także na wymiar epoki, na wymiar trudnego momentu historycznego, na wymiar XX wieku, a może i czasów, które idą. […] pragniemy wzbogacić chrześcijańskie dziedzictwo polskości o przejmującą wymowę jego czynu oświęcimskiego: «Nie daj się zwyciężyć złu, ale zło dobrem zwyciężaj»! Drodzy Bracia i Siostry! Ewangeliczny program. Trudny program – ale możliwy. Program nieodzowny.” (Retrieved 12.12.2013).
  • 11 Exodus 19:3-6.
  • 12 Isaiah 55:8.
  • 13 AFTER 50 YEARS – how to speak of guilt, suffering and reconciliation? Declaration of the Discussion Group ‘Jews and Christians’ of the Central Committee of German Catholics. Bonn 1988.

Translated by Annegret Fuehr