July 31, 2016 – Pope Francis prayed silently on Friday as he hunched on a bench near Auschwitz death camp site’s gate in Poland. He prayed in tribute to 1.5 million individuals (most of them Jews), gassed there by Nazi occupiers during the era of World War II.
Making the 3rd day of the pope’s trip to Poland for a Catholic youth international gathering, he spent a few minutes speaking quietly as well as exchanging gifts with about twelve Auschwitz survivors – including a woman who just turned 101 years old.
One male survivor also gave Pope Francis his picture that show himself being surrounded by his inmates in a bunk and asked the pope to sign it. The pope kissed each survivor.
The 79 year-old Argentine-born pontiff, made no statement as he continued to walk through the drab, brick building’s barely lit corridors in Auschwitz Block 11. The area had housed prisoners chosen for special punishment.
With aides using flashlights to light his way, Pope Francis visited the cell located underground where Maksymilian Kolbe, a Franciscan monk, was killed after offering his own life to save a Polish man.
German occupation forces Auschwitz-Birkenau camp set up during World War II in Oswiecim (a town around 43 mi from Krakow, the second city of Poland).