Today is Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day

Tricia Miller, Ph.D. and Dexter Van Zile

Dear Christian Leaders,

Today  is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we remember more  than six million European Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and their  willing collaborators simply because they were Jewish. Yom HaShoah is  observed on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi  death camp located on the outskirts of Oswiecim, Poland. Today marks the  76th anniversary of that event.

Auschwitz  was established as a concentration camp in German-occupied Poland in  1940, and by 1945 had become the largest extermination center where the  "Endlösung der Judenfrage," or "final solution to the Jewish question,"  was carried out. More than 1.1 million Jews, including more than 200  thousand children, were killed in the gas chambers and and burned in the  ovens of Auschwitz.

The  "final solution to the Jewish question" was a comprehensive plan to  identify and exterminate all the Jews of Europe. The campaign was  designed under the leadership of Adolph Hitler by high-ranking members  of the Nazi party who were just as anti-Christian as they were  anti-Jewish. However, in spite of that reality, the Holocaust was able  to be conceived in a historically Christian nation, and was implemented  throughout Christian Europe as Nazi Germany conquered one country after  another.

In  light of the fact that great evil was perpetrated in a historically  Christian context, there are compelling questions that should challenge  us as Christians today. How could such an atrocity take place in  countries where the vast majority of the people still identified as  Christian? What was the leadership of the Church thinking and doing, and  what were individual Christians thinking and doing as they watched  their Jewish neighbors persecuted, stripped of their rights, herded into  ghettos, and transported to concentration and extermination camps  designed to insure that not one of them would survive?


These  questions lead us to another, which is: In light of the current  world-wide rise in antisemitism and opposition to Israel, what is our  responsibility as Christians here and now in relation to the Jewish  people and the Jewish State?

Any  serious attempt to answer questions concerning how the Holocaust could  happen in Christian-majority countries will include at least a survey of  the history of Christian antisemitism. Indeed, historic Christian  antisemitism and anti-Judaism played a major role in active support of  the Nazi agenda and were contributing factors for the vast majority of  Christians who did nothing in the face of great evil.

The  prevailing lack of opposition to the Holocaust on the part of so many  European Christians was identified at the time as the evil it was by  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, renowned German theologian and pastor. Bonhoeffer  separated from the German Protestant Church, which supported the Nazis'  "final solution to the Jewish question," to form the Confessing Church,  which unequivocally condemned Hitler's genocidal plan to rid the world  of Jews. Before he was executed for his resistance to the Nazi agenda on  April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer wrote:

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil...not to speak is to speak...not to act is to act."

This  definitive statement is at least as relevant today as it was in  Bonhoeffer's time. Therefore, on this day in which we remember the more  than six million Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jewish,  let us respond to the clarion call to speak and act in the face of evil  made explicit by Bonhoeffer's stark observation. We must not keep  silent and we must not forget the evil that happens when Christians do  keep silent!

Indeed,  in these times in which we live, we must strengthen our commitment as  Christians to oppose antisemitism wherever and however it manifests,  combat anti-Zionism in the Church, stand in solidarity with the Jewish  people, and support Israel's right to exist in the historic homeland of  the Jewish people.


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One of the ways Israel is demonized and delegitimized today
is through the false accusation that the Jewish State is an apartheid state. 

To hear the truth about this modern day libel

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