A 30-member Simon Wiesenthal Center delegation presented Pope Francis with a facsimile of an original report authored and signed by Adolf Hitler, in which he openly espouses the destruction of the Jewish people by “a government of national strength.”
The facsimile, whose original is displayed at the SWC’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, was presented to the pontiff on Wednesday by SWC founder and CEO Rabbi Marvin Hier and chairwoman Dawn Arnall.
Rising tides of antisemitism
Hier’s first enumerated the current statistics on both sides of the Atlantic, which confirm surging antisemitism, including violent hate crimes. Pope Francis responded by thanking the Wiesenthal Center for protecting the memory of the past.
Hier then spoke about the human rights organization’s namesake, Holocaust survivor turned Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, and how he would react to current events.
“Against such a tidal wave of hate, Simon would ask, ‘How could it possibly be that the world’s leaders, knowing what’s happening, still want to make a deal with Iran on nuclear weapons when her leaders deny that there ever was an Auschwitz or a Treblinka? Who continues to preach that no Jews were ever murdered in gas chambers? How can the United Nations and the world trust a regime, which for the last 43 years has never deviated from those notorious lies?’
“If that is not scary enough, look at what Putin’s Russia is doing to the people of Ukraine,” Hier said. “How can a country which suffered the wrath of Hitler turn around and adopt his very same tactics, slaughtering innocent people, bombing hospitals, orphanages and schools?
“Your holiness,” Hier continued, “We stand before you today, 80 years after the infamous Wannsee Conference, where 15 Nazi officials, eight of them PhDs from some of the finest universities, made the decision, agreeing with Hitler’s orders, to mass murder all of Europe’s Jews. By May 1945, in addition to six million Jews, millions of non-Jews, including gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and other enemies of the Reich, were also killed.
“That is why, your holiness, we’ve come here today to present to the Vatican Archives one of the most significant documents in the history of humankind: a copy of an original letter, typed and signed by Hitler on September 16, 1919, in which he openly maps out the need for the final removal of the Jewish people in Europe.”
In the letter, Hitler wrote: “Our final aim must be the uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether. Both are possible only under a government of national strength, never under a government of national impotence.”
Hier said that “what began as one man’s opinion would become state policy of Nazi Germany 22 years later, which led to the systematic murder of one-third of world Jewry. This document shows the power of words, and is a warning for everyone to take threats of any demagogue seriously.”
The pope denounced the current wave of antisemitism and cautioned that the threat of populism continues to be a threat. He noted that the letter written and signed by Hitler in 1919 revealed that he did not care about the German people, but only promoted a dangerous ideology.
Francis urged the Wiesenthal Center to continue to serve as a bridge between the past and the future, “recalling history so it can be of service to the future.”