A Manifesto of the Youth of Oswiecim
to the youth of the world
For the World Youth Day in Cologne, August 2005
We come from and live in a town called Oswiecim – in a place with a difficult history, known to the world as Auschwitz. We have taken part in meetings organised by the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer, and within that program we have been introduced to the subject of the camp and we have heard memories recalled by the Witnesses of those times. We are grateful for those encounters, which we have expressed together with our German and Austrian friends in a letter to the ex-prisoners, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp Auschwitz – Birkenau.
Many beautiful answers were sent in, and we would like to share with you some representative fragments of them, in this place. Listen to this tale of suffering, death and pain, but also at the same time of hope and faith – of those who survived the hell of the camp and in honour of those who cannot speak any more… May these words become a testimony and signpost for those building the “civilisation of love”.
Short history of the camp
Auschwitz has become for the world the symbol of terror, genocide and holocaust. It was set up by the Nazis in 1940 in occupied Oświęcim , which was renamed Auschwitz . In the beginning it was Poles who were imprisoned and who died there. Later, Soviet prisoners of war were kept there, also gipsies and prisoners of other nationalities. From 1942 the camp became the place of the largest mass murder in the history of humanity, of European Jews as part of the Nazi plan of complete annihilation of that people. The total number of victims in Auschwitz is estimated at 1.1 to 1.5 million people. Most of these people representing mass transportations of Jews from 1942 onwards, died in the gas chambers. Let us honour them with a minute of silence…
Let us give a voice to those whom it was given to survive …
Example I – About suffering and the camp
“The cruelty of the war went beyond the boundaries of human imagination and understanding. The Nazi Germans built death factories – concentration camps, places of humiliation and extermination, where people died amongst unspeakable psychological and physical suffering.”
“Selection is taking place on the ramp in Oświęcim . A mother does not want to give up her child. That same day she is killed together with him – incinerated in the crematorium. 21st January 1944 the father dies – gassed and committed to the flames of the crematorium. It is difficult to describe the extent of the tragic circumstances in which my co-prisoners died, driven along trackless ground – without food or drink – maltreated, shot at, thrown into ditches (…) They perished in the gas chambers and from bullets, from the blows of truncheons, and only because they were Jews. “Doctor” Joseph Mengele – the person responsible in the camp for making selections, would indicate by pointing with one finger who should live and who was to die.”
Example II – about hope
“I never lost hope”.
“I remember their mutual love, their clinging to the slightest glimmer of hope that they might possibly survive, preserving their humanness in conditions of hell on earth, saving their loved ones.”
Example III – about faith
“I remember their faith in a better world, their desire to live, and with the remnants of their strength pleading with dying eyes that they not be forgotten, that they were amongst us, and so very much wanted to live, to exist in this world.”
“I the camp I lost contact with God.”
“Those who believe in God never bear him a grudge.”
Example IV – Resolutions
“From the depths of our exhausted hearts a well stifled scream bursts out. We must never again allow such a crazy scenario to repeat itself anywhere and in respect of anyone. An effective barrier must be the transmission to the younger generation, the baggage of our tragic experiences together with a heartfelt appeal, that they work as widely as is only possible to clear the minds of people of the bacilli – which is intolerance and hate.”
“Auschwitz has become the symbol of the Holocaust and the world must not forget that. We must tell young people about this, for whom the camp in Auschwitz is now only a museum. We ought to make young people aware that it was human beings who prepared for other human beings such a fate.”
Example V – A request to young people
“Do not cease being witnesses of those who have died.”
“To erase from individual and collective memory difficult facts is simply dangerous. Without a past there is no future.”
“To young people, when at the beginning of the third millennium old Europe is uniting, when boundaries are being opened, when thanks to new methods of communication distances as becoming smaller, I would like to say : meet up with each other in order to get to know each other better, talk to each other in order to understand each other better, learn to respect others, even if their appearance and way of thinking is different from yours, and all so that you may never have to live through the drama of our generation.”
“Do not allow hatred to take up home in your hearts. Love people irrespective of the colour of their skin, racial origin, faith or political persuasion.”
* * *
As Pope John Paul II stated, from us young people, who shortly will have a huge influence on the destiny of the world, will depend to a large extent the future;
We therefore promise to all those people who suffered and died in concentration camps, that we will remember their history, and transmit it to the next generation, drawing out resolutions and trying not to commit the same mistakes in the future that led to the hideous tragedies. Only then will the world become a place where Joy, Love, Justice, Peace and Faith can rule.
The youth of Oswiecim
This project was initiated by the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim.
Maksymilian Kolbe Werk in Germany helped us make contact with many past prisoners, for which we are very grateful to them.
On our webpage (www.cdim.pl) you can find more texts e.g. correspondence between young people and survivors/witnesses of those times. We invite young people who would like to sign up to our manifesto to join us at the
Centrum Dialogu i Modlitwy – Ulica Kolbego 1, Oświęcim , Polska ; Tel : (00 48 33 843 1000) We have here a special book for you to sign.