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Press Information published by the International Auschwitz Committee


The deadly attack in Halle and Yom Kippur: “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”

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Whilst at the Auschwitz Memorial Christoph Heubner, Executive Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee made the following statement about the first anniversary of the deadly attack in Halle and tomorrow’s High Holiday of Yom Kippur:

“At this time the thoughts of the Auschwitz survivors throughout the world are filled with pain from the past and the present. They remember Yom Kippur 1944, the 27th of September, when Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz and Birkenau were tormented by the question whether they should observe the fast on this highest Jewish holiday. After all, they were being forced to fast every day, the murderous starvation process prescribed by the SS dominated their lives in Auschwitz unremittingly. Nevertheless, on that day most Jewish prisoners refused the camp’s abysmal slop, to reaffirm their life as Jews and to praise God, whilst incarcerated in that Hell. Even when the SS deliberately stepped up their torment by perfidiously offering them better food on this day of fasting, many of the prisoners refused to touch it, despite the threat of punishment.

But one young Jewish prisoner consciously refused to fast, out of protest against God. It was the future Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel. In 1986 he told me how he, the devout Jew, cried out to God amidst this Hell and in face of the gas chambers, only to be torn apart on this special day by God’s silence. And like many other survivors after their liberation, Elie Wiesel had expected that the world would damn anti-Semitism once and for all: people would accompany those who had been scarred by Auschwitz with gentleness and kindness. They would help them to overcome their isolation and to rebuild a new life within the human community.

It was, and remains to this day, one of the Auschwitz survivors’ most disillusioning experiences that the line between the anti-Semitic hatred and the murderousness they had personally experienced, and the recurring actions against Jewish people today, is extremely thin. In the deadly attack in Halle this thin line was formed just by an old wooden door. For this reason Holocaust survivors are currently defending themselves with the words of their friend Elie Wiesel opposing indifference, and appealing to the solidarity of their fellow human beings:  ‘We must always take sides. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’”


For further Information

Christoph Heubner

Executive Vice President
International Auschwitz Committee
Phone ++ 49 (0)30 26 39 26 81