A convoy rolled into the former Auschwitz death camp some 30 minutes later than expected, just days prior to the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.
But a half-hour delay is insignificant when considering that it took nearly 20 years to get to this moment, when some of the world’s most prominent Muslim leaders converged on the site where over 1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered in one of history’s most notorious industrial genocides.
Prominent representatives of the Muslim faith from over 20 nations, however, were not alone in their pilgrimage to the camp. They walked through Auschwitz’s infamous gate — with its haunting slogan “Arbeit macht frei,” or “Work sets you free” — shoulder to shoulder with the entire leadership of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an organization that’s had this meeting of spiritual leaders at the top of its agenda for the past two decades.
Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), led the pack hand-in-hand with AJC Director David Harris, a 70-year-old longtime advocate for Jewish communities whose own parents survived the Holocaust.
Official delegation visits to the Auschwitz memorial site often follow the same routine: Guides provide barely audible commentary through headphones as visitors pass through harrowing sites, like the “Wall of Death,” where German soldiers shot thousands of Polish prisoners. Photo-ops are normally scattered throughout the tour, before groups move on to Birkenau to learn of more horrors.
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