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100 Jewish Youths Hold Protest at Auschwitz Catholic Convent

From Times Wire Services

More than 100 Jewish students from Western Europe demonstrated Sunday outside a Roman Catholic convent at the edge of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp as several hundred Poles--some making hostile comments--watched.

It was the second weekend of protests at the Carmelite convent, but there was no repeat of the July 14 incident in which an American rabbi and six students were roughed up and dragged away by convent construction workers after occupying the grounds for five hours.

The convent was founded in 1984 in a former Nazi warehouse a few feet from the barbed wire fence and guard towers of the death camp, where an estimated 4 million people--including 2.5 million Jews--were put to death during World War II.

The cloister’s lawn, with a 23-foot wooden cross in the middle, is a former gravel pit where prisoners were gunned down by Nazi executioners in 1940 and 1941.

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“We have nothing against the Carmelites, but we are against them praying at this place,” said Borem Laurent, a Brussels resident and chairman of the Union of Jewish students of Belgium. The group also included students from Holland, Switzerland and England.

The 107 demonstrators, organized by the European Union of Jewish Students, sat for 20 minutes about 15 feet outside the convent gate.

Several hundred residents from Osweicim, the Polish name for Auschwitz, including couples with children, stood nearby, saying they came to “defend” the convent.

A statement read Sunday by the student group’s leader said that Polish-born Pope John Paul II was responsible for the convent’s presence despite agreement that it would be removed by February.

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