On the terrible days of the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, you were defending – and defended (!) – human dignity, the human right to live with dignity, including the right to die with dignity,” wrote Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś, chairman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, on the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Recalling the words of the “Shema Yisrael” prayer, Archbishop Ryś wished “that these words may finally warn us and convince us of what every idolatry leads to, and of what a person who idolizes and absolutizes his ideology, race, nation, and ultimately: himself, proves himself capable of.”
Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference
The full text follows:
Address of the Chairman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Committee for Dialogue with Judaism for the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
I don’t know if there is a human word appropriate to the drama which unfolded in the Warsaw Ghetto eighty years ago.
I do know that Jewish tradition dictates that the words “Shema Yisrael” should be recited to a dying Jew. This tradition is derived from the Torah, which instructs one to recite the “Shema” “while going to sleep.”
Obedient to this commandment – which is common to us Jews and Christians – I want to say to you, dear Jewish Sisters and Brothers, falling into the “sleep of death” eighty years ago – from bullets in the streets and barricades of the ghetto, in the fire of houses burned, systematically one by one and turned to ruin, killed by gas or drowned by water in underground bunkers – I want to say to you and with you: “Shema Yisrael.” I dare to do so with the MOST HUMBLE love, in determined closeness and solidarity that was denied to you so many times back then. I dare to do so with gratitude that you then – in the terrible days of the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – were defending – and defended (!) – human dignity, the human right to live with dignity, including the right to die with dignity. I dare to say:
“HEAR, O ISRAEL: ADONAI IS OUR GOD, ADONAI IN ONE! AND YOU SHALL LOVE ADONAI YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. AND THESE WORDS WHICH I COMMAND YOU THIS DAY SHALL BE UPON YOUR HEART; TEACH THEM FAITHFULLY TO YOUR CHILDREN, SPEAK OF THEM IN YOUR HOME AND ON YOUR WAY, WHEN YOU LIE DOWN AND WHEN YOU RISE UP. BIND THEM AS A SIGN UPON YOUR HAND; LET THEM BE A SYMBOL BEFORE YOUR EYES. INSCRIBE THEM ON THE DOORPOSTS OF YOUR HOUSE AND ON YOUR GATES.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9)
I say these Words with the hope that we will hear them too, WE ALL: the people, the Poles, the Christians, the Catholics of the 21st century; that we will hear them just today – on the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – so that they will finally warn us and convince us of what every idolatry leads to and what a person who idolizes and absolutizes his ideology, his race, his nation, in the end: himself, proves himself capable of…
With the hope that these WORDS will ultimately convert and protect us!
Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś
Translated by Sr. Amata Nowaszewska / Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference