Muslim delegation takes part in visit to Auschwitz
WARSAW, Poland — Muslim religious leaders joined members of a US Jewish group at Auschwitz for what organisers described as “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” to visit the site of a Nazi German death camp.
The interfaith visit was four days before the 75th anniversary of the camp’s January 27, 1945, liberation by Soviet forces and as world leaders gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the Holocaust.
Muslim World League Secretary-General Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa and the American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris led the tour to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Poland. The Nazis operated extermination and concentration camps in Poland when Germany occupied the country during World War II.
The American Jewish Committee said Issa, who is based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from some 28 countries during the “groundbreaking” visit.
The American Jewish Committee delegation included members of the organisation, among them children of Holocaust survivors.
“To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honour,” Issa said. “The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”
Auschwitz was the most notorious in a system of death and concentration camps that Nazi Germany operated on territory it occupied across Europe. In all, 1.1 million people were killed there, most of them Jews from across the continent.
The visit came as Saudi Arabia works to be seen as a moderate and modernising country following decades of adherence to a hard-line interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. The Muslim World League, under Issa’s leadership, has embraced the effort.