Muslim Clerics Learn Lessons of Auschwitz Firsthand

Imams Say Jews' Suffering Offers Universal Warning About Hate

Muslim clerics pray at the Auschwiz concentration camp in Poland during a visit in May to learn about the Holocaust.
a.j. goldmann
Muslim clerics pray at the Auschwiz concentration camp in Poland during a visit in May to learn about the Holocaust.

By A.J. Goldmann

Published May 29, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

The most remarkable moment came when the group decided to take their afternoon prayers in front of the infamous “Wall of Death.” Imam Muzammil Siddiqi of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, another participant in the 2010 trip, led the service. The participants kneeled down on the naked earth and genuflected repeatedly, the coarse dirt sticking to several foreheads. By the time the group reached Birkenau, they were running several hours behind schedule. But the participants collectively defied an irate bus driver in order to spend the extra time walking along the “Judenrampe” to the site of the crematoria.

“None of us is here out of curiosity,” said Safi Kaskas, a businessman and interfaith activist who was born in Lebanon, has U.S. citizenship and lives in Saudi Arabia. “We’re all here because we care deeply about human suffering and what happened to the Jews.”

“It’s important to understand what happened to the Jews, to understand and appreciate the suffering they’ve been through…in order to better communicate,” he explained, “in order to convince my Jewish neighbors that it is better to have peace than to have war [so] the suffering they experienced in Europe should not repeat itself in the Middle East.”

Echoing the sentiments of many of the other participants, Jusic, the Bosnian religious educator, said that the proper meaning of Auschwitz belongs not to the past, but to the future. “We cannot go back and help those children and women we saw and those innocent people being gassed and burned, but we can make sure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said.

Breger was pleasantly surprised at the trip’s end, when the participants all signed a public condemnation of Holocaust denial nearly identical to the one that was drafted by the 2010 group.

Breger added that he was now looking to organize a third trip that would bring rabbis and imams together to visit both Auschwitz and Srebrenika, the site of the July 1995 Serbian massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, which many Muslims perceive as an example of the West looking the other way while Muslims were slaughtered. “By speaking to that belief, you would go a great way towards making it easier to engage with the tragedy of the Shoah and Jewish pain and trauma,” said Breger.

Contact Adam Goldmann at feedback@forward.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.