VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has kissed the tattoo of an Auschwitz survivor during a general audience on Wednesday.
Lidia Maksymowicz, a Polish citizen who was deported to Auschwitz from her native Belarus by the age of 3, showed the pope the number tattooed on her arm by the Nazis, and Francis leaned over and kissed it.
Maksymowicz told Vatican News that she didn’t exchange words with the pope.
“We understood each other with a glance,” she said.
Maksymowicz has participated in events sponsored by Sant’Egidio aimed at educating youth about the Holocaust. She spent three years in the children’s area of the camp, and was subjected to experiences by Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death.” When the camp was freed, she was taken in by a Polish family.
The pope has paid tribute to Holocaust survivors in the past, including a 2014 visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel and a visit in February to the Rome apartment of a survivor, 88-year-old Hungarian-born writer and poet Edith Bruck.
The Vatican said that during the hour-long visit, Francis told her: “I came to thank you for your witness and to pay homage to the people martyred by the craziness of Nazi populism.”
“And with sincerity I repeat the words I pronounced from my heart at Yad Vashem, and that I repeat in front of every person who, like you, suffered so much because of this: ‘Forgive, Lord, in the name of humanity,’” the pontiff told Bruck, according to the Vatican’s account of the private meeting.