auschwitz barbed wire 29.
(photo credit: Leslie Schachter)
The top Israeli and Palestinian diplomats in Poland visited the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp complex together Sunday in a rare joint act of Holocaust reflection.
Israeli Ambassador David Peleg and his Palestinian counterpart, Khaled Ghazal, spent 2.5 hours visiting the gas chambers, crematoria and barracks at the former Nazi camps in southern Poland.
Ghazal, who initiated the visit, said he saw it as way to express his sympathy with the suffering of the Jewish people during World War II, and said he hoped such acts of remembrance can help build better ties between his people and Israelis.
"I just wanted to express my deep solidarity with the victims of fascism and the crimes (against) the Jewish people and humanity at large," Ghazal told The Associated Press. "I think the lesson learned from this project motivated us to work for creating peace in the Middle East."
Peleg said the visit marked "maybe a very modest contribution to a better atmosphere between Israelis and Palestinians."
"I appreciated his interest and I also saw in it some message about human contact between Israelis and Palestinians," Peleg told The AP.
Peleg said he and Ghazal "don't have a structural relationship because he's not representing a government. But we meet from time to time in social occasions and at one of them he told me that he would be very much interested in visiting Auschwitz."
"I told him I'd be glad to arrange it, and asked if would like me to accompany him. He said 'with pleasure."'
Peleg said it was the first time he had visited Auschwitz with a Palestinian representative since becoming ambassador to Poland 3Â½ years ago.
At least 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the complex's gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labor before Soviet troops liberated the site in Nazi-occupied Poland on Jan. 27, 1945.