Pope Francis visits Holocaust survivor in Rome

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On Saturday, Pope Francis made a visit to Edith Bruck, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, at her home in Rome.

Vatican News reported the pope reading an interview given by Bruck for Holocaust Memorial Day, and “felt deeply moved” by her story and wanted to meet her in person.

Bruck was born into a poor Jewish family and spent time in a series of concentration camps, where she lost her father, mother and brother.

Bruck, who has lived in Italy for decades and writes in Italian, was about 13 when she was taken with her family to Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland, where her mother died.

After that, they were taken to Dachau in Germany, where her father died. While in Dachau, she dug trenches and laid railway sleepers (ties), she recently told the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano.

She later spent time in Christianstadt, a sub-camp of the larger Gross-Rosen death camp. She finally wound up in Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated by the Allies in 1945.

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The pope told Bruck: “I have come here to thank you for your testimony and to pay homage to the people martyred by the insanity of Nazi populism.”

Bruck, now almost 90 years old, is also an author and has lived in Italy for most of her life.

The pope, who rarely leaves the Vatican for private visits, spent about an hour with Bruck, who has written novels and plays and directed films.

A Vatican spokesman, who announced the visit after it ended, said the two spoke of her time in the camps and the importance that future generations be made aware of what happened.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder applauded the pope for his visit:

“I am deeply appreciative of Pope Francis’ tremendous compassion in visiting Edith Bruck, who survived the horror of several Nazi concentration camps, lost her family who were murdered in the Holocaust, and has bravely shared her story,” he said.

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“The pope has demonstrated a sincere commitment to both personal kindness for the experiences of others and to the urgency of continuing to draw attention to the inhuman atrocities of genocides including the Holocaust,” Lauder said. “At a time when neo-Nazism, antisemitism and other bigotries are resurgent in many parts of the world, Pope Francis’ moral integrity and sense of history set the standard for other faith, political and community leaders to follow.

“My gratitude goes as well to Mrs. Bruck for her courage in telling the world about her trauma, and in dedicating her life to educating people about the horrible truths of the Holocaust,” he continued. “As survivors age, their testimonies become increasingly priceless, and we owe our understanding of the very worst of humankind to the individuals who have taken it upon themselves to bear witness to all they have endured. Through such comprehension, we pray that such evil shall never happen again.”

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Last month on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the pope, who visited Auschwitz in 2016, urged people to keep a close watch on ideological extremism, because “these things can happen again.”

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