Pope Francis speaks to Edith Bruck, a Holocaust survivor and writer, during a visit to her home in central Rome on February 20. (CNS Photo / Vatican Media)

February 22, 2021
Cindy Wooden
Catholic intelligence service

ROME – A month after reading an interview in the Vatican newspaper with Edith Bruck, a writer and Holocaust survivor, Pope Francis decided to visit her at her home in central Rome.

“I would never have imagined something like that. When I opened the door, I burst into tears and we hugged. We were both overwhelmed by emotions,” Bruck said on the Vatican news after the Pope left February 20 would have.

88-year-old Bruck was born in Hungary into a poor Jewish family. In April 1944, she and her Jewish neighbors were rounded up and taken to the Nazi ghetto in Budapest, and later that year sent to Auschwitz, where their mother died. Then they were sent to Dachau, where their father died, and on to Bergen-Belsen, which was liberated by the Allies in 1945. She moved to Rome in 1954 and has lived there ever since.

Her latest book “Il Pane Perduto” (“The Lost Bread”) was published on January 20th. In connection with the publication of the book and the annual commemoration of the Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published a lengthy interview with her in which she described the horrors of the Shoah, but also the tiny points of light – small gestures of humanity – that she experienced during her ordeal.

Bruck said that during the Pope’s visit, which lasted almost two hours, she shared her story with him, including the “five lights” she witnessed in the camps, but the Pope knew everything about her. “He knew my book almost line by line.”

According to the Vatican Press Office, “the conversation with the Pope covered those moments of light that were sprayed in the experience of the concentration camp hell” and the two spoke of “their fears and hopes for the time we live in and underscored the value of memory and the role of the elders in caring for and passing on. “

“I have come to thank you for your testimony and to pay homage to the people who were martyred by the madness of National Socialism,” the Vatican quoted the Pope as saying when he told Bruck. “With sincerity I repeat the words that I uttered in the heart of Yad Vashem (the Shoah memorial in Jerusalem) and that I repeat before anyone like you who has suffered so much: ‘Forgive, Lord, on behalf of them Humanity. “

The Pope, said Bruck, expressed his grief over “the innocents who were destroyed during the Shoah”.

“But there is always hope. There is always a tiny light, even in the pitch black,” she said. “We cannot live without hope. In the concentration camps all it took was a German who looked at you with a human look. All it took was a gesture. All it took was a human look. They gave me a glove with a hole in it They left me some jam on the bottom of a plate. That was the life inside. This is hope. “

“Systematic cruelty, absolute evil” reigned in the camps, she said in a January interview.

“‘When understanding is impossible, knowledge is essential, because what happened could happen again.’ I made these words from Primo Levi my own, “she said. “I’ve never had hatred or feelings of revenge, but rather unbelief and endless sadness.”

“Evil only creates evil,” she said. “Remembering is painful, but I’ve never shied away from it. Illuminating a single conscience is worth the effort and pain, to keep the memory of what was alive. For me, memory lives and writing breathes.”