The boy who cried the wolf comic

"Cried together" - Young Muslims and Jews in Auschwitz

"First of all, I need a shower for my soul and body," says Khaled Naeem. He has just come out of the dim building with the incinerators of Auschwitz, out into the heat and the bright sunlight. He is exhausted from all the impressions, emotionally deeply touched, close to tears.

The force of the memorial struck him dead: the incinerators, the mountains of shoes and human hair, the narrow barracks, knowing that more than a million people were systematically and in cold blood murdered here. "Like in a factory," says Khaled: "It just makes me sad." He himself has already seen a lot of suffering on the flight from Syria via Jordan to Germany: dead on the streets and entire families who drowned on the crossing to Europe.

"Just sad" - Khaled Naeem fled Syria to Germany

Masa Alimam, a 17-year-old Syrian woman, is also completely overwhelmed: "For me it was the worst to find out what the Nazis did with the children. They too were simply murdered." Some of the young people don't even want to speak: closed faces, tears, silence, the desire to be alone.

Project for tolerance and against anti-Semitism

25 young people, Muslims and Jews, have set out together to understand the darkest chapter in German history: refugees from Syria and Iraq and young Jews from Germany, between 17 and 30 years old. In the three days they traveled together, they reduced many prejudices, they say. An example: Many Muslims are anti-Semites. "We just perceive ourselves as human beings. Religion does not play a major role," says Judith Barneck, the Jewish student from Bielefeld. "We laughed and cried together," adds Masa Alimam.

"Religion does not play a major role" - Judith Bartneck, Jewish student from Bielefeld

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the Union of Progressive Jews came up with the idea for this excursion into the German past and the preoccupation with German responsibility. "I think it is a pilot project that should be copied," says the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman ​​Mazyek. He has accompanied young Muslims to the former Buchenwald concentration camp several times. "It was worth the effort," adds Rabbi Walter Homolka: "The cooperation between Jews and Muslims must succeed."

Learn to understand Germany better

The fact that anti-Semitism still plays a role among some Muslims in Germany - just as it does in the middle of German society - would probably not be denied by either of them. This is exactly what they want to fight against with their project. "I couldn't understand the Nazis that well, we didn't have that at school in Syria. Now a lot is much clearer to me," said Masa Alimam.

"We didn't have that at school in Syria" - Muslim Masa Alimam during a visit to the Auschwitz Memorial

They also receive support from politics on the day of their visit. The Prime Ministers of Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia, Daniel Günther (CDU), and Bodo Ramelow (Die Linke), traveled specially. You want to make the pilot project better known and promote it. "But I wouldn't say that a visit to a concentration camp should be compulsory. Duty doesn't help!" Says Prime Minister Ramelow. Some politicians had called for a visit to a concentration camp to become compulsory for migrants.

Khaled Naeem is also against it: "Anyone who somehow manages should take a look at a concentration camp memorial. But please no obligation!" The fact that the politicians are there goes down well with the group. "I wouldn't say that the politicians turned our visit into an event," says Judith Bartneck.

In fact, the two prime ministers take their time. Together with the young people they look at the exhibitions, hold a small memorial service, and have lunch with them. They want young people to understand what the Shoah was, the murder of millions of European Jews, and why it is an obligation.

Conversation with an Auschwitz survivor

That was what an encounter the day before was about: 138817 - everyone can see the prisoner number of Waclaw Dlugoborski. It is tattooed on his left forearm and is clearly visible because the skinny 92-year-old is wearing a short-sleeved shirt on this hot summer day. Dlugoborski is an Auschwitz survivor and tells how he survived the camp, how he experienced abuse and mass murder.

Moving encounter: The young people met the Auschwitz survivor Waclaw Dlugoborski

He reports about the selection at the ramp, about the people who were led directly into the gas chambers, from the labor camps. He himself came to Auschwitz because he was active in the Polish resistance against the Nazis. Towards the end of the war he was able to flee. He has never had a Jewish-Muslim group visiting, he told Deutsche Welle before the eyewitness interview at the International Youth Meeting Center in Oswiecim, as the Polish place is called today, which the Germans called Auschwitz.

"What he said takes you with you," says Judith Bartneck later: "Of course, it is a unique opportunity to be able to experience someone who has gone through it all himself. It will not be possible for much longer." At the end, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman ​​Mazyek, has another question for Waclaw Dlugoborski. He wants to know what can be learned from the Holocaust. The survivor replies, "This should never happen again. We should all be brothers!"