Polish bishops call for Holocaust remembrance in rare move

Poland`s Catholic Church on Friday made an unprecedented appeal to its followers to help preserve the heritage of the once vibrant Polish Jewish community wiped out by Nazi Germany.

Warsaw: Poland`s Catholic Church on Friday made an unprecedented appeal to its followers to help preserve the heritage of the once vibrant Polish Jewish community wiped out by Nazi Germany.

"The history of Polish Jews is an integral part of our country`s heritage. Poland was a common home for different people of different faiths," the Polish Episcopal Conference said in a statement from its Jewish dialogue committee.

"We call on priests to launch initiatives to preserve the memory of Jewish communities in the areas where they lived, and we ask the faithful and local authorities to help them out with this task.

"Don`t shrug and say, `it`s not our problem`. This is an obligation of conscience."

The Jewish co-chairman of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews applauded the move: "It`s a very powerful appeal, a great statement put out for the first time in this form."

"Until now, this kind of remembrance work had been done by individuals or small groups, while the rest of society remained indifferent. This appeal should make a difference," co-chairman Stanislaw Krajewski told AFP.

Nazi Germany killed off 90 percent of Poland`s 3.3 million pre-war Jews. Most of the survivors emigrated, leaving behind an active Jewish community that now numbers only around 7,000.

The KAI Catholic news agency published the bishops` remarks in the run-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, which will also mark 70 years since the Soviet army liberated the Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland.

Poland was once Europe`s Jewish heartland, boasting a 1,000-year Jewish presence -- the subject of Warsaw`s new POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. 

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