Pope Francis kissed the tattoo of an Auschwitz survivor at the Vatican. Lidia Maksymovicz was not even three when she ended up in the infamous concentration camp.
Maksymowicz is a Polish citizen who was deported to Auschwitz from her native Belarus before the age of three. She showed the pope the number tattooed on her arm by the Nazis, and Francis leaned over and kissed it.
Pope and I understood each other with a glance
Maksymowicz, 81, told Vatican News no words passed between her and the Pope. “We understood each other with a glance,” she said.
Maksymowicz spent three years in the children’s area of the camp. Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death”, subjected her to experiments.
“All the children knew who Mengele was and felt terror towards him. I consider that I have a mission to tell this story, I owe it to those who died,” she said in January during an online talk with young Italians. “I am one of the few survivors.”
Liberation, adoption and reconnection
After the liberation of the camp, a Polish family adopted Maksymowicz. The consecutive numbers of hers and her mother’s tattoos enabled them to reconnect when she was 18.
Maksymovicz participates in events sponsored by the Catholic charity Sant’Egidio aimed at educating youth about the Holocaust.
The pope has paid tribute to Holocaust survivors in the past visiting memorials, survivors and the Auschwitz site itself.