Vatican City (June 22, 2022) - This morning, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) President and CEO Michael Levitt and Chair Fred Waks joined a 30-member Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) delegation for a private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss rising antisemitism and the importance of the pope's leadership in the fight against it.
During the poignant meeting, SWC Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier presented Pope Francis with a copy of an infamous letter written and signed by Adolf Hitler in 1919, in which he calls for the "uncompromising removal of the Jews" by "a government of national strength."
"What began as one man’s opinion," Rabbi Hier stated, "would become state policy of Nazi Germany 22 years later, which led to the systematic murder of one-third of world Jewry. This document shows the power of words and is a warning for everyone to take threats of any demagogue seriously."
"Your Holiness, our world needs your leadership now more than ever," Rabbi Hier continued. "As Simon Wiesenthal reminded all of us, 'Freedom is not a gift from Heaven, it is something we have to fight for each and every day.'"
Pope Francis denounced the current rise in antisemitism and cautioned that populism continues to be a threat. He further stressed the importance of "recalling history so it can be of service to the future."
FSWC's Michael Levitt had the opportunity to speak with the pope, sharing the Jewish community's deep concern over surging antisemitism in Canada.
"Thank you, Your Holiness, for your strong words about the evils of antisemitism," Levitt said to the pope. "Your message is more important now than ever."