Pope Benedict XVI has ended his trip to Poland with a highly symbolic visit to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz.The Pontiff walked alone around the camp – once the nerve centre for a huge complex serving Hitler’s “Final Solution” of wiping out European Jews. After saying a short prayer at the Wall of Death, where thousands of Auschwitz prisoners were shot dead by the Nazis, the Pope met with 32 former prisoners. It is estimated 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed here and the horrors of this and other concentration camps have marked his life as well as that of his predecessor, John Paul. Forced to join the Hitler Youth, the German-born Pontiff’s visit is all the more significant and an indication of the Vatican’s effort to seek reconciliation. He then moved on to the site of the gas chambers at the Birkenau extermination camp, where he stood in reflection at the monument to victims. The Vatican has revealed that the trip was not originally in Benedict’s schedule, but that the 79-year-old pontiff had personally insisted on it.
Pope visits Auschwitz death camp