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WYD pilgrims try to grasp the grimness of death at Auschwitz camps


  • A World Youth Day pilgrim looks inside a building during a July 25 visit to the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
  • World Youth Day pilgrims from France pray during a July 25 visit to the Birkenau Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
  • Wadley Fleurime, 18, originally from Haiti, and Diane De Bernardo tour the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary July 25 in Wadowice, Poland, with other pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. The town of Wadowice is where St. John Paul II was born. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
  • Patricia Ruiz, 22, prays the rosary alongside her sister, Gabriella, 19, with a group of World Youth Day pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., July 25 on a bus en route to visit the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
  • World Youth Day pilgrims and other visitors pause near an image of St. Maximilian Kolbe during a July 25 visit to the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. St. Maximilian Kolbe took the place of a young father condemned to die at Auschwitz during World War II. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
  • Father Robert Adamo, pastor of St. Ephren Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., prays near the site of gas chambers during a July 25 visit to the Birkenau Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. Father Adamo and other pilgrims from the diocese were in Poland for World Youth Day. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

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OSWIECIM, Poland (CNS) -- Walking into the site of the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, Stephanie Dalton felt a chill up and down her spine.

She called it the spirit of those who died at the hands of the Nazis more than 70 years ago.

"You could tell the people's presence (was) still there," she said after her group from the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, walked through the camp July 25 as part of their World Youth Day pilgrimage.

Dalton, 19, a member of Sts. Simon and Jude Parish, spoke to Catholic News Service during a break after touring the camp and the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp where nearly 1 million people were killed in secret during World War II.

Looking at forested areas at Birkenau, Dalton said she could see the people who were held "in the beauty" after arriving by train in crammed boxcars as their fate was being determined by the Nazis.

"They didn't know what was going to happen," she said in a solemn tone.

The Brooklyn contingent totals about 600. Forty of them filled a bus and joined thousands of others from around the world at the camps a day before the official opening of World Youth Day.

At Auschwitz, visitors walked in silence under the famous gate with the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free.) Only the footsteps of the pilgrims on the dry, rocky ground could be heard.

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