It was not the gas chamber or the Todessteige which had the most profound effect on me that day, but a film showing an interview with an American soldier who helped to liberate the camp. The terror in his eyes as he recounted the horrific scenes is forever fixed in my mind, and towards the end of the interview he burst into tears, as did I and my friends who were watching.
I do not need exact figures or statistics to understand the scale of the atrocities which occurred under the Nazis, because at Mauthausen-Gusen I felt it – not only proof of the Holocaust but proof of indescribable evil. An eminent historian once told me that he has never yet heard a convincing argument for why the Holocaust happened, and for me the only answer can be that evil was at work. As a religion that values above anything else the sanctity of human life, Christians of all denominations cannot forget what happened in these camps, and pray that such things may never happen again.
At the end of a day of frantic blogging and media reaction, I reflect on what exactly the Pope has achieved. At the risk of another fierce media backlash he has made it possible for more separated brethren to come back to the mother church. The views of Bishop Richard Williamson are shocking and unacceptable, but they are not shared by the majority of the Society of St. Pius X.
I was particularly moved by the words of a Jewish reader who posted on Ruth Gledhill's blog, whose wife's great uncle was saved from a Nazi camp by Marcel Lefebvre's Father. Whilst his excommunication has been lifted, it is very unlikely that Williamson will again function in the Roman Catholic Church as a priest or a bishop, and he and his small number of followers may not even choose to return.
I do expect there to be an announcement from Rome regarding Williamson in the near future, for his views and his investigation in Germany for Holocaust denial cannot and must not go unnoticed.
To echo the words of my brother seminarian Athanasius, Pope Benedict's "master plan for unity" seems to be gathering pace, and we wait prayerfully to see what his next move will be.
Read it here.
Watch the full Swedish TV investigation into the Society of St Pius X, presented by Ali Fegan.
German prosecutors are preparing a case against Bishop Richard Williamson, who was speaking to Fegan at Zaitzkofen, a village in Bavaria where the society has a seminary. You may read about the case here.