Pope sends birthday wishes to friend and Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck
By Joseph Tulloch
Pope Francis was in the middle of a catechesis about his recent trip to Hungary when he paused and laid his prepared remarks to one side.
“We have in Rome an excellent Hungarian poet,” he said, speaking off-the-cuff, “who has been through many trials, and tells young people about the importance of fighting for an ideal, about not being defeated by persecutions, by discouragement.”
“This poet is 92 years old today: Happy Birthday, Edith!”
A witness to evil
Edith Bruck, a writer and Holocaust survivor, was born in 1931 to Hungarian Jewish parents.
In 1944 she and her family were sent to a concentration camp, where her parents and brother died. Mrs Bruck was liberated from the camp, together with her sister, in 1945.
She first moved back to Hungary, then to Israel, before finally settling in Rome, where she began a career as a writer.
Bruck has dedicated much of her work – which has included novels, poetry, plays, translations, and screenplays – to bearing witness to the evils she experienced in the concentration camps. She was asked to do so by two fellow concentration camp inmates, she says, who asked her to “tell the story. They will not believe you. But if you survive, tell the story, for us too.”
Friendship with Pope Francis
In 2021, the Osservatore Romano, the Vatican City's daily newspaper, conducted an interview with Mrs Bruck for Holocaust Memorial Day. Pope Francis read the interview and was so moved by it that he requested to meet with her.
A month later, he paid a visit to her apartment in Rome, telling her that he had come “to thank you for your testimony, and to pay homage to your people, martyred by the madness of Nazi populism."
A friendship then sprang up between the pair, who went on to exchange letters, phone calls, and gifts. A year later, Mrs Bruck came to visit the Pope in his residence in the Vatican, and wrote a book entitled Sono Francesco (I am Francis) reflecting on their encounter, to which the Pope wrote the preface.
Following the pair’s second meeting, the Holy See’s Press Office released a statement saying that their conversation had focused on “the priceless value of passing down the memory of the past to younger generations, including its most painful aspects, so as to avoid falling into the same tragedies.”
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