Cardinal Cupich calls on all people to stand up against antisemitism

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Cardinal Cupich discusses the need for all people to come together to oppose antisemitism at the Illinois Holocaust Museum Humanitarian Awards Dinner March 7, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The cardinal received the Survivor Legacy Award. (Cynthia Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Cupich spoke at the Illinois Holocaust Museum Humanitarian Awards Dinner March 7, calling all people to work together to stop hateful speech and actions.

The cardinal was at the dinner, held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, to accept the Survivor Legacy Award.

In his remarks, Cardinal Cupich reflected on his friendship with Fritzie Fritzshall, who survived Auschwitz and served as the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s president from 2010 until her death in 2021 at age 91. She and the cardinal traveled together to Auschwitz in 2019, a visit that was the subject of a four-part ABC7 news program, “Return to Auschwitz.”

“It is a great honor to be associated with the noble survivors of the Holocaust, but that honor was bestowed on me before tonight, for it began when Fritzie Fritzshall of blessed memory befriended me, may she rest in peace,” Cardinal Cupich said. “We hit it off immediately, and I think that was due to the fact that both of us delighted in the curiosity that comes in meeting people, always ready to learn something new.”

Cardinal Cupich also spoke about participating in a Feb. 21 online event organized by the international Combat Antisemitism Movement to celebrate the “heroic actions” of Bishop of Assisi Giuseppe Placido Nicolini in allowing Jews fleeing deportation during the Holocaust to be housed in his diocese. Bishop Nicolini has been named “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, for saving hundreds of Jews during the Nazi occupation of Italy.

“Bishop Nicolini did not do this by himself,” Cardinal Cupich said. “Instead, he created what is now known as the Assisi Network, engaging the cooperation of nuns and priests who provided hiding places in 26 monasteries and convents. He also called on trusted local townspeople, among whom were the owner of a souvenir shop who used his small printing press to create false papers, and a young boy who repeatedly risked the 20-mile bike trip to a neighboring town to secure the help of an expert in etching who produced the seals to stamp the false documents.

“In all, more than 300 Jews were saved and not one who entrusted themselves to Bishop Nicolini’s Assisi Network fell into the hands of the Nazis.”

His reason for telling the story, he said, was to point out that Bishop Nicolini counted on the help of others.

“Bishop Nicolini was able to do all this by asking others to step forward and do their part and act responsibly,” Cardinal Cupich said. “We must do the same today. We must call everyone to be responsible.”

As incidents of antisemitic language and acts of violence increase in the United States and across the globe, Christians and others must stand with their Jewish neighbors, he said.

“Even here in Chicago, a city known for religious diversity and tolerance, some Jews tell me they are afraid to show signs of their faith in public,” the cardinal said. “These reports are alarming, but Christians cannot just be alarmed by antisemitism. We must look to the example of Bishop Nicolini and band together in a network of support and protection, each of us doing his or her part to help break down prejudice built on centuries of ignorance and fear and to be willing to raise our voices in the face of hateful acts and speech and say, ‘This is wrong, this must stop.’”

Cardinal Cupich also urged listeners not only to visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum, but to bring their children and grandchildren with them.

“We need to make sure that this story lives on in future generations,” he said. “One of the most poignant moments in my trip with Fritzie to Auschwitz came at the end of our stay. We were in barracks much like the one she was imprisoned in and she expressed her anxiety that when she and all survivors pass from this life, what happened in the camps would be forgotten, that the story would not live on. Just then three young college age girls approached. They were from France but spoke English and so I invited Fritzie to tell them her story. They were riveted as they heard her account. As they walked off, I said to Fritzie, ‘Those girls will tell their children and grandchildren that they met you and your story will live on.’ We must do the same. We must make sure that the story continues so that others like us today, will say ‘no more, never again.’”


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