(LWI) – The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum preserves the memory of the more than one million people who were murdered in the Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. Left largely unchanged since the liberation of the camps in 1945, the buildings stand as a powerful symbol of terror, genocide and the depths to which the human spirit can sink. A visit to the site will form a key part of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Assembly, which will take place in nearby Krakow from 13 to 19 September.
Delegates from LWF member churches around the globe will gather for the Assembly which is hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (ECACP). The gathering, in Krakow’s ICE congress center, will focus on the theme of ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’, as delegates elect a new governing body and set directions for the global communion over the next six-year period.
The visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau is a key moment of this Thirteenth Assembly because it is “a crime site that obliges us to confront the worst part of human nature, a part we would prefer to avoid,” says Rev. Dr Ireneusz Lukas, LWF’s Regional Secretary for Europe. The majority of those killed in the gas chambers were Jews as the Nazi regime sought to eliminate the Jewish communities of Europe.
Lukas, who is also a pastor of the ECACP, notes that “Auschwitz stands as a negation of our Assembly theme. It represents an urgent call not to be indifferent to suffering in today’s world, a call to action to stand together wherever people’s dignity is being violated.”
Among more than a thousand participants expected to attend the Assembly will be a Holocaust survivor, Polish historian Marian Turski, who was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in August 1944. Three years ago, during a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camps, Turski warned against indifference in the face of persecution against minorities in contemporary society. “Auschwitz did not fall from the sky,” he recalled. “It began with small forms of persecution of Jews. It happened; it means it can happen anywhere.”
The visit will take place on 15 September and will include a moment of prayer as participants reach the end of their tour. Small listening groups will be arranged in the evening for those wishing to discuss impressions and share reactions.LWF/P. Hitchen