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World

Web Desk
January 24, 2020

Watch: Muslims, Jews come together in prayer at site of former Nazi concentration camp

World

Web Desk
Fri, Jan 24, 2020
Saudi Arabia’s former justice minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Issa and other Muslim and Jewish leaders at Auschwitz. Photo: American Jewish Committee

A video showing Saudi Arabia’s former justice minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Issa leading a prayer at Auschwitz to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the former concentration camp has gone viral on Twitter.

According to a press release, Issa who is also the secretary general of Makkah-based Muslim World League, made the “groundbreaking joint visit” along with American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris.

The press release issued by the AJC said that Issa led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders.  The group claimed that it marked the first time that a senior Islamic leadership delegation visited Auschwitz or any Nazi German death camp.

The visit was part of a memorandum of understanding signed between AJC and MWL in April last year at the AJC headquarters in New York.

“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. 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 creation,” said the former Saudi minister.

The AJC delegation comprised 24 people, including AJC President Harriet Schleifer, past president John Shapiro and his wife, Dr Shonni Silverberg, and Roberta Baruch and Steven Zelkowitz, members of AJC’s Executive Council.

We are deeply moved to be the hosts for such an unprecedented visit. — American Jewish Council president.

“Visiting this sacred place, understanding what transpired at Auschwitz, is vital to preserving the memory of the Jewish, and non-Jewish, victims of the Nazis and striving to ensure that such horrors never happen again,” said Harris, who is also a son of Holocaust survivors.

“We are deeply moved to be the hosts for such an unprecedented visit. This creates the chance not only to deepen understanding of the unparalleled crime that took place here but also to build bridges of friendship and cooperation between Muslims and Jews in pursuit of a more humane and safer world for all,” said the AJC president.

“By paying tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, we not only honour the dead but celebrate the living. Throughout the visit, stories of our shared humanity showed through the horror. I was amazed by stories of some individual Muslims who sought to save Jews from the Holocaust at great personal risk in Europe and North Africa. These precious men and women represent the true values of Islam. And today’s visit by the AJC and MWL is made in the spirit of this noble tradition of brotherhood, peace, and love,” remarked Issa after a ceremony and memorial prayers for the victims of the Nazi concentration camp.

What is Auschwitz? 

Auschwitz was a Polish army barracks in southern Poland which was later turned into a jail in 1940 for political prisoners following Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Initially, the former barracks had only one camp, known as Auschwitz I.

However, as the second world war and the Holocaust progressed, the Adolf Hitler-led regime developed more camps for various reasons at the site.

When Auschwitz was eventually liberated by the Soviet Union, the jail had over 40 camps and subcamps, according to the BBC.