“Imprisoned in a concentration camp, in the darkest and most depraved chapter of human history, Radnóti continued until his death to write poetry. His ‘Bor Notebook’ was his only collection of poems to survive the Shoah. It testifies to the power of his belief in the warmth of love amid the icy coldness of the camps, illumining the darkness of hatred with the light of faith.”
Referring to a poem in which Radnóti described himself as “a root,” the pope said: “Only if we become roots of peace and shoots of unity, will we prove credible in the eyes of the world, which look to us with a yearning that can bring hope to blossom.”
The pope met Slovakia’s Jewish community on Sept. 13 in the capital, Bratislava.
During World War II, almost all of Bratislava’s Jews were deported to concentration camps or labor camps. Around 11,500 of the more than 15,000 Jews then living in the city were murdered in the Holocaust.
Slovakian Holocaust survivors spoke at the event in Rybné Square, part of the city’s former Jewish quarter.
In his address, the pope said: “Let us unite in condemning all violence and every form of anti-Semitism, and in working to ensure that God’s image, present in the humanity he created, will never be profaned.”
Bruck was born in Hungary in 1931 but has lived in Italy since her early 20s. She survived the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau, where she was sent with her parents, two brothers, and a sister at the age of 12.
Her parents and a brother died in the concentration camps. Bruck and her remaining siblings were freed from the Bergen-Belsen camp by the Allies in 1945.
Pope Francis visited Bruck at her home in Rome in February.
According to the Vatican, in a meeting of around an hour, Bruck and the pope spoke about “those moments of light which marked the experience of the hell of the concentration camps.”
Their conversation also touched on the “fears and hopes for the time we live in, underlining the value of memory and the role of the elderly in cultivating it and passing it on to the young.”
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When he greeted Bruck, Pope Francis said: “I came here to thank you for your testimony and to pay tribute to the people martyred in the madness of Nazi populism.”
“And I sincerely repeat to you the words I spoke from my heart at Yad Vashem and which I repeat in front of every person who, like you, has suffered so much because of this: ‘Forgiveness, Oh Lord, on behalf of humanity!’” he said, according to a Vatican communication.
After 1945, Bruck returned to Hungary and then went to Czechoslovakia, where a sister was living. She married for the first time when she was 16 years old and moved to Israel. That marriage ended in divorce after a year, and was followed by two more marriages and divorces.
Bruck moved to Italy in 1954, where she married Nelo Risi, an Italian poet, film director, translator, and screenwriter who died in 2015 after a long battle with a neurodegenerative disease.
During World War II, Risi had fought on the Russian front and been imprisoned in a Swiss internment camp.
Bruck published a memoir about her time in the concentration camps and the years after in Italian in 1959. In 2001, it was translated into English with the title “Who Loves You Like This.”