October 2015 | jewiSh vOice | 17
ifty years ago, in October 1965, an ocean away and a world
removed from her childhood in europe, Lucia weitzman, 25, at-
tended to the needs of her two-year-old son and infant daughter
in suburban Detroit. On the 28th day of that month, the vatican
issued a Declaration on the Relation of the church to Non-christian
Religions Nostra Aetate (“in Our Time”), a landmark document
that rejects the charge that the jews of jesus’ time or those alive
today are collectively guilty of jesus’ death.
Lucia recoiled upon learning the news. This was a different mes-
sage than what she had heard while she sat in the pews of her
beloved St. Mikolaj church in Bochnia, Poland. it was much the
same during her school years.
She was then known as Alicja Swiatek, an assumed identity. Born
to jewish parents, Michael and Adele Berl, and blessed with the
name Rose, she’d been given at age two to a catholic couple, Ge-
nowefa and Franciszek Swiatek, for safekeeping in a desperate at-
tempt to keep her from the Nazis—and certain death. her parents
never returned after the war, perishing in the holocaust.
Adopted by the Swiateks, Alicja was not a jewish girl in hiding dur-
ing the war—she was simply a catholic child nurtured by doting
parents. But the secret of her true identity was revealed in the
spring of 1945 when a jewish relative searched Bochnia for the
little girl, intending to send her to a jewish orphanage. Alicja clung
to Genowefa’s leg and the war-weary relative left after a brief
The impact of the relative’s visit was immediate. The Swiateks’
landlord and neighbor, who’d given Alicja candy a day earlier, now
threw a brick at her. he threatened her with a butcher’s knife
off and on for more than a decade after that. She was taunted in
grade school, even though she regularly attended church and had
little idea about who jews were (there were none left in Bochnia)
or what judaism was about.
what was the source of this hatred, evident long after the Ger-
mans had left Poland?
The jewish-christian split early in the first century, and more
pointedly the charge of deicide, figured prominently in well over a
millennium of persecution directed at jews. in addition to absolv-
ing collective jewish culpability, the Nostra Aetate declared that
“jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God.” it
decried “hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed
against jews at any time and by anyone.”
chIld hOlOcaust survIvOr,
raIsed cathOlIc, reFlects
On the 50th annIversary
OF nOstra aetate
By S. Mitchell Weitzman
mOre On next page
photo Courtesy of smith puBliCity, inC.