US Jewish organisation condemns Pope Francis for comparing refugee centres to 'concentration camps'

Maya Oppenheim
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps across the territories it controlled before and during World War II: Getty

Pope Francis has drawn criticism from a Jewish organisation for comparing European refugee holding centres to “concentration camps”.

The pontiff made the comparison during a visit to Rome Basilica where he met with migrants on Saturday. Recalling his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos last year, he talked of encountering a Muslim refugee from the Middle East who told him how “terrorists came to our country”.

According to Reuters, islamists cut the throat of the man's Christian wife because she refused to throw her crucifix on the ground

Pope Francis said: “I don't know if he managed to leave that concentration camp, because refugee camps, many of them, are of concentration (type) because of the great number of people left there inside them”.

Soon afterwards, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) urged the pontiff ”to reconsider his regrettable choice of words“.

”The conditions in which migrants are currently living in some European countries may well be difficult, and deserve still greater international attention, but concentration camps they certainly are not,“ David Harris, the head of the AJC, said in a statement.

”The Nazis and their allies erected and used concentration camps for slave labour and the extermination of millions of people during World War II. There is no comparison to the magnitude of that tragedy.

“We respectfully urge the pope to reconsider his regrettable choice of words. Precision of language and facts is absolutely essential when making any historical reference, all the more so when coming from such a prominent and admired world figure.”

Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps across the territories it controlled before and during World War II. The camps were utilised to incarcerate, torture and kill so-called “racially undesirable elements” of German society, such as Jews, criminals, homosexuals, and Romani, and political opponents.

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