Pope Benedict XVI marked Sunday the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, a prelude to the Holocaust, by recalling the agony he felt as a boy growing up in Nazi Germany.
An unwilling member of the Hitler Youth who deserted the German army towards the end of World War II, the leader of the world's Roman Catholics, who turned 81 in April, urged younger generations to shun all forms of discrimination.
Recalling the "sad events of the night of 9-10 November 1938, when the Nazi fury was unleashed against the Jews," the pope said "even today, I feel pain for what happened in these tragic circumstances, of which the memory must serve to ensure that such horrors never occur again.
"Shops, offices, homes and synagogues were attacked and destroyed, and numerous people were killed, acting as the trigger for the systematic and violent persecution of German Jews which resulted in the Shoah," the Hebrew name for the Holocaust.
Benedict called on the world to "act, at every level, against all forms of anti-semitism and discrimination, educating the younger generations in particular about the meaning of reciprocal respect."
He called on tens of thousands of pilgrims to "pray for the victims of yesteryear" and to "unite" in showing the Roman Catholic faith's "profound solidarity with the Jewish world."
The pogrom, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, saw Nazi thugs plunder Jewish businesses throughout Germany, torch some 300 synagogues and round up some 30,000 Jewish men for deportation to concentration camps.
Some 90 Jews were murdered in the orgy of violence.
The pope last month backed the beatification of his controversial World War II predecessor Pius XII defending the wartime pontiff's actions during a "complex historical moment."
His stance has sparked bitter debate and tension between Catholics and Jews.