SIX MILLION LIVES
ONE AND A HALF MILLION JEWISH CHILDREN
90% OF ALL POLISH JEWS
TWO-THIRDS OF EUROPEAN JEWRY … ALL GONE
The numbers are staggering. The loss is unfathomable. The pictures … The pictures of the skeletal bodies even 70+ years later are enough to turn one’s stomach and clench one’s throat. However, it is the stories of my six friends who survived the horror (five of whom who are now gone) that I will never forget. And it is their stories that I always will share and repeat so that the horrors of 1933-1945 will never be forgotten. It is also the question of the hour that lingers in the air does it not?
IF GOD IS GOOD … THE HOLOCAUST?
How can we even imagine asking the question? How can we even imagine NOT asking the question? It needs to be asked and has been asked since the Russians crossed the railroad tracks and discovered the hell of Birkenau in January 1945.
I myself asked this question long before I entered this world I find myself in now when I wrote my first master’s thesis – “The Spiritual Significance of Literature Created During or Resulting from a Period of Suffering, 1933-1945” in 1996. It was supposed (and actually it is academically) to be an examination of Holocaust literature and how it reflected individuals understanding of God from a perspective of theodicy (theology of suffering). However, and for me personally, it became a quest to understand how and why the church was apathetic then and often still is to the Jewish people’s deeper theological, emotional and spiritual needs.
Elie Wiesel asked this question all of his life and not simply in his unforgettable work Night that the world has grown uncomfortable hearing/reading … “Never shall I forget that night …” In Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel, he wrote some equally heartwrenching words:
And God? Where was He during those dark years? The Holocaust has had a great impact on religion. It does not really matter whether God is the impersonal God of the Reconstructionist or the personal God of the Hasid. We all speak about God in our hearts. We speak about the unknown, about that inner poetry which elevates certain moments of our existence. Where was this God then?
Jewish scholars today are still asking this question. Here are just three of the many books that sit on my shelf as a glaring indictment of the dearth/shortage of conservative Christian scholars who are not asking the question. The rare exceptions including the son of Holocaust survivors Michael Rydelnik and conservative turned “liberal” David Gushee; God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes (ed. Menachem Z. Rosensaft); The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology (ed. Steven T. Katz); and Holocaust Theology (ed. Dan Cohn-Sherbok) which has been updated but I prefer the older edition.
Therefore, we are going to ask the question(s) here in as much detail as is possible from Explore Messiah…? and Tzedakah Ministries’ conservative, evangelical perch. Because the questions need to be asked as you continue this journey, this exploration, this search for truth:
(1) Why did so many Christians help the Nazis?
(2) Why did so many Christians not fight the Nazis? and the most difficult one of all
(3) Where is my family who died in the Shoah?
And … I want to be honest with you that out of all the issues that Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? have and will discuss on this exploration that we are taking together, these are the ones that I have dreaded the most. To tackle the apathy of Christianity during the years of the Shoah is heartbreaking. To confront the apparent complicity of “professed” Christians is embarrassing. To explore with you the issue of universalism vs. exclusivism in regards to salvation is painful but any journey worth taking is often full of pain and inelegant moments.
Therefore, I am going to ask to explore all three of the topics in order this time. Unusual … I know but those of us who follow Messiah Jesus must face our demons as well. And remember at any time, we are ready to discuss these thoughts with you at the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board.
WHY DID SO MANY CHRISTIANS HELP THE NAZIS?
The word “Christian” is a loaded term today. Is it not? Ask 100 people to give you a definition and you could probably come up with at least 50-75 different concepts – and some probably would not be “suitable for family entertainment.” I asked a group of Christians in their twenties and early thirties to give me three reactions that popped into their mind when they see the word. After a ton of discussion, this was a summary of their response:
• Judgmental at times
• Imperfect but redeemed
• Outdated/Old-fashioned/Stationary in some churches but not all of them
• Some try so hard to be relevant and trendsetting that they lose focus of what it means to be Christian … just be real
• Superficial – many use the term but don’t live it because they don’t know what it really means to be a Christian
However, where did the word come from and what does it really mean? Because we are living in a world of connotation vs. denotation in many regards.
In fact, we who call ourselves Christians struggle to define ourselves in the broadest of terms. There are an estimated 30 to 45,000 different kinds of denominations in the world who would call themselves Christians, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/january-february/division-is-not-always-scandal.html and http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-movements-and-denominations/).
So … what does the word REALLY mean? In Acts 11:26b we find these words – “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The word simply is a noun and it is used sparingly in the “New Testament” – only 3 other times – and it means “Christ follower” or “follower of the Messiah.” That’s it … nothing else. The disciples were followers of Jesus the Messiah/Christ. Sounds easy on the surface until one realizes what the idea of Acts 11:26b meant to the disciples in Antioch. They tried to emulate completely Jesus’ example and life. They followed His teachings because they believe what He taught and that He really was who He said He was and is. Even to the point of martyrdom and imprisonment.
Now … do we who profess to be followers of Jesus live up to Acts 11:26b today? Perhaps in some places in the world such as North Korea or Myanmar but not in the where it is comfortable (i.e., socially easy) to use the world “Christian.”
And we most certainly did not anywhere in the world during the 1930s and 1940s. Sadly, back during the rise of Nazism in the 1920/1930s and during the worst days of World War II many wore the label Christian but few reflected the part of being a true follower of Messiah Jesus.
We could re-hash the inadequacies of the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII but that has been done. We could consider how the German-state church was complicit in the rise of Hitler but you more than likely know that story as well. Instead Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? will examine two lesser known examples: one of outright participation and one of Christian apathetic inaction. For I would argue that these lesser examples give you the real story of how individuals who wore the label of Acts 11:26b failed when the relatives of the Jewish Jesus needed them the most.
HITLER’S THEOLOGIAN – GERHARD KITTEL (1888-1948)
Depending on whom asks, Gerhard Kittel was either a naïve pawn of the Third Reich or should today be seen as a pariah who chose expediency over the truth of Scripture. I vote for the label of pariah.
However, life did not begin this way for Kittel who was the son of a German theologian and became a theologian of moderate renown himself in a pre- and post-World War I Germany. Disgruntled by what he considered the failures of the Weimar Republic and the moral laxness of 1920s Germany, he was one of the first German theologians to join the Nazi Party in May 1933.
Now many in the academy were joining the Party in order to keep their professorships (i.e., the golden chalice called tenure). However, Kittel not only joined the Nazi Party but also became a member of the Reichinstitut für Geschichte des Neuen Deutschlands (basically the Reich Institute for the History of New Germany) in 1936. This “institute” was designed for the sole purpose of researching and examining what was euphemistically known as the “Jewish Question.” The idea of a theologian being interested in the “Jewish Question” is disconcerting enough but it is the publication of his Die Judenfrage (The Jewish Question) in 1933 that is the most problematic on a number of levels.
Inside his work The Jewish Question, he wrote the following: “The true and complete answer is afforded only the Jewish problem is correctly placed on a religious basis and when the fight against Judaism is endowed with a Christian significance. My people should not engage in this struggle nor occupy themselves with the Jewish problem unless they hear therein the voice of God.”
Now … Kittel did not call for the extermination of the Jewish people in his work nor in any of his lectures of teachings; HOWEVER, he argued for their segregation or displacement if you would prefer a gentler term … I don’t. In fact, if you read his 1933 work, you could see where the genesis or ideas for the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 could have received their theological backing. Not that the Nazi Party needed theological validation but Kittel’s rationalization provided a cover, I would argue, for what they hoped to accomplish.
So while Kittel was “not as bad as other Nazis” in that he did not participate in the actual murder of the Jewish people, the fact that he was a theologian and that he was utilized (not used) by the Nazi Party to give their hatred of the Jewish people a veneer of religious sophistication makes it in some ways worse. Julius Streitcher of Der Sturmer had no such veneer and was a brute of the first degree. Kittel purported to have a degree of civility and to know Jesus the Jewish Messiah even if the latter years of World War II, he denied even the truth of Jesus’ ethnicity as well.
Therefore, Gerhard Kittel indeed was one of Hitler’s theologians. Where he could have stood up against the theological lies of the Third Reich, he contributed. Where he could have proclaimed the truth of the Jewish Jesus, he compromised. Where he could have sought to stop the insidious influence in the German Church, he became complicit and sadly he was not alone. He and others wore the label Christian but failed to reflect the part of being a true follower of Messiah Jesus. And for this fact, Explore Messiah…? and Tzedakah Ministries apologizes.
Barnett, Victoria J. “Barmen, the Ecumenical Movement, and the Jews: The Missing Thesis.” The Ecumenical Review vol. 61, no. 1 (March2009): 17-23.
Ericksen, Robert P. “Theologian in the Third Reich: The Case of Gerhard Kittel,” Journal of Contemporary History 12 (July 1977): 595-622.
Head, Peter M. “The Nazi Quest for an Aryan Jesus.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 2.1 (2004): 55-89.
Weinryb, Bernard D. “Jewish History Nazified.” Jewish Record (1 April 1941): 148-67.
JACOB GARTENHAUS AND THE APATHY OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION DURING WORLD WAR II
Jacob Gartenhaus (1896-1984) was not your typical Southern Baptist. He was born in Galicia (situated between modern-day Austria and Poland) to an Orthodox Jewish family. After immigrating to New York City around 1915, he discovered the truth of Jesus through the witness of his brother Zev and the Williamsburg Mission to the Jews.
After theological training at Moody Bible Institute and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he was enlisted by the Home Mission of the Southern Baptist Convention to serve as the “Field Secretary of the Jewish Department” in 1921. He would serve in this position until 1949; however, he would continue to do the work of Jewish evangelism until his death in 1984 via his own ministry based in Chattanooga, Tennessee – International Board of Jewish Missions. However, we are going to focus here on the 1930s, the war years and Gartenhaus’ service with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because it impacted and formulated his mission work as well as the SBC to this day.
For in his 1980 autobiography, Traitor?: A Jew, A Book, A Miracle, it could be argued that his year pre-World War II years with the Southern Baptists weighed heavily on him in retrospect:
I often experienced sorrow as a new believer because of the attitude of fellow Christians. For one thing, I was censured for warning the American public in the early days of the Nazi uprising. It is quite possible that, had I not been silenced, the Christian world might have averted World War II and the slaughter of six million Jews—among them about a million children—by the Nazis.
Hyperbole? Perhaps? For the Southern Baptists were not the yet the largest Protestant denomination in the United States; however, the reality of the loss of his family who had not escaped the Holocaust and his impending mortality only four years away in 1980 probably gave him pause and time to think about the recriminations and obstacles he faced from his fellow leading Southern Baptists during the 1930s when someone could have and should have stood up against the horrors that were about to engulf the world.
So what was the reaction by the Southern Baptist world to Hitler and the Third Reich during the 1930s and to Gartenhaus’ opposition to the Nazi regime from among his fellow pastors? Here is a short summary:
• Ben Bridges, Secretary-Treasury of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, wrote in the 29 March 1934 edition Arkansas Baptist News perhaps the persecution of the German Jews could be politically based and therefore Hitler could be 99.4% justified in his opposition. Basically, the article was a hit piece on Communism and blaming the Jewish people for all the Communist and immigration-related problems. It is full of all the stereotypical accusations against the Jewish people you can imagine from the 1930s and it is shameful that a pastor would write it.
• M. E. Dodd who was president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1934 and attended a meeting of the Baptist World Alliance in Berlin that year. He met with Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller and wrote a report of the meeting for the Baptist and Reflector (13 September 1934) in which he again defended Germany’s opposition to Jewish Communist agitators and wrote the following: “Naturally excesses occurred and irresponsible persons committed some atrocious deeds. But at the worst it was not one-tenth as bad as we had been made to believe.”
• Incidentally, Gartenhaus was at the same meeting (Baptist World Alliance) and wrote the following for the Atlanta Constitution 3 September 1934: “Jews are being murdered every day in Germany. While a delegate to the Baptist World Alliance in Germany last month, I talked with many Christian Jewish pastors of the Baptist faith. They had been exiled from Germany not because they were Baptists but because Jewish blood coursed through their veins.”
• Perhaps this is why letters were written after the Baptist World Alliance to Gartenhaus’ supervisors with the Home Mission Board seeking to have Gartenhaus removed from his position or seeking to muzzle Gartenhaus’ criticism of Hitler.
As a member of a Southern Baptist Church, I personally am saddened by my denomination’s past. My own church is active in the work of Jewish evangelism (or I would not be a member of it); however, this is still something as a denomination that we need to be respond to with repentance and recognition of our failures. I for one can only apologize for what we did not do. I am sorry and if I could I would apologize personally to Jacob Gartenhaus for what he experienced from those he called fellow believers as well.
I hope and imagine that we have surprised you with our transparency. It is not a past that we should be proud of; however, it is something that we need to confront and admit. People like to sweep the past under the rug but the dirt is still there until we confront it and face it.
Let’s discuss it further at the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board. We might not be available immediately but we will be ready to discuss your questions and opinions with you as soon as possible.
Bridges, Ben. “Baptists, Hitler, and the Jews.” Arkansas Baptist News 29 March 1934.
Dodd, M. E. “My Impressions of the Baptist World Congress.” Baptist and Reflector 13 September 1934: http://media2.sbhla.org.s3.amazonaws.com/tbarchive/1934/TB_1934_09_13.pdf.
Gartenhaus, Jacob. Traitor: A Jew, A Book, A Miracle. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980.
Joiner, E. Earl. “Baptists and the Holocaust.” http://floridabaptisthistory.org/docs/monographs/baptists_holocaust.pdf.
Robins, Walker. “Jacob Gartenhaus: The Southern Baptists’ Jew.” The Journal of
Southern Religion 19 (2017): http://jsreligion.org/vol19/robins/.
WHY DID SO MANY CHRISTIANS NOT FIGHT TO STOP THE NAZIS?
I remember when I was a child that there was one chore that I loathed, despised, hated above all others … dusting the furniture. It is still the same housekeeping task that I deplore doing and put off as long as possible – which is not a good thing if one lives in Texas – but that is another story for another day.
Anyway as a “tweener,” I would do whatever I could to put off dusting the furniture for as long as I could hoping that somehow and perhaps the “dust fairy” (i.e., mom would cave) would magically come and get the job done. Mom never caved and as I half-heartedly apologized while she supervised the dreaded chore, she would utter a very wise statement, “Don’t say you are sorry, show me you are sorry.” In other words, do your dusting when you are supposed to get it done!
We as Christians and churches could learn the same lesson as what my mom tried (and hopefully succeeded) in teaching me, “Don’t say it, show it.” For those Christians, churches and denominations who still hesitate in saying the words, I will try and do it for all of us … but in nice Christian language:
WE BLEW IT BIG TIME!
WE ROYALLY MESSED UP!
WE WERE AT BEST APATHETIC AND AT WORST ANTAGONISTIC WHEN THE JEWISH PEOPLE NEED US MOST!
MARTIN NIEMÖLLER – THE MAN WHO TRIED TO GET IT RIGHT … AND ALMOST ON TIME
Many people know Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) for his prayer of lament (poem) that first came to international attention in the 1950s that reflect a man considering in hindsight what the Nazi years were truly like.
FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE COMMUNISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT—
BECAUSE I WAS NOT A COMMUNIST.
THEN THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT—
BECAUSE I WAS NOT A TRADE UNIONIST.
THEN THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT—
BECAUSE I WAS NOT A JEW.
THEN THEY CAME FOR ME—AND THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK FOR ME.
However, many do not know the story of religious, intellectual and personal progression that Martin Niemöller made during the years of Third Reich. Many do not know that he went from comfortable country squire/pastor to religious objector to political prisoner. Many do not know that the words of prayer of lament were not merely observational but indeed very, very personal.
A pastor’s son and a World War I soldier for Germany were crucible forces in Niemöller’s early life as both taught him the ideal of loyalty and allegiance; however, the days of the worldwide Great Depression which hit the Weimer Republic of Germany especially hard due to the slavish and unrelenting demands of the Treaty of Versailles tested not only Niemöller but all German people. Therefore, when an Austrian upstart named Adolf promised to return Germany to former glory it was a tempting narrative that initially swayed the new pastor in Westphalia. In fact, the German-loving Niemöller who voted for the Nazi Party definitely in 1924 and perhaps as late as 1933, was among a group of clergy that met with Hitler in the early 1930s to see the failed artist could restore morality to the nation.
However, and unlike Gerhard Kittel, Bishop Muller and countless others, Pastor Niemöller soon saw through the gilded veneer and joined with Dietrich Bonhoeffer in opposition to the Aryan Paragraph was a central figure in the creation of the German Confessing Church until his arrest by the Gestapo in 1937.
The war hero, short-term Nazi, but most known as the pastor who once stated in a sermon,
“Obedience to this church government [the Third Reich] is disobedience to God.”
would spent the next eight years of his life in a series of prisons and concentration camps until his release from Dachau in 1945.
Now Tzedakah Ministries’ could have used any number of individuals other than Pastor Martin Niemöller to tell the story of someone who did the right thing and fought the Nazis. Individuals who don’t have the checkered past of the Lutheran/Confessing Church pastor; however, Niemöller was chosen specifically because of his spotty record because he represents the vast number of Germans who lived in Germany in the pre-World War II days.
A decent sort of individual who was put out by the onerous burdens of the Treaty of Versailles who was seeking for answers to the burden of their lives. Someone who wanted a leader who would direct the governmental ship back to shore and restore German pride. A person who did not have the prestigious lineage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer but who had served his country and “longed for the good old days” when Germany still had some pride and standing in the world. A man who loved his wife, his God and his children. This was every German who kept silent and this was Martin Niemöller who spoke out. I don’t know why more did not follow the example of the simple parson – the world would look much better today if they did and I am again sorry for the lack of courage that were displayed by “good folks who did nothing.”
“… I am physically and spiritually well; what is to become of me is in God’s hand and does not cause me concern any longer, and I do not worry about it anymore either. For us the path is clear: ‘Preach the word, hold fast, be it the right time or the wrong time.’” (Moabit Prison—10 February 1938)
Lawson, Tom. “Constructing a Christian History of Nazism.” History and Memory vol. 16, issue 1 (Spring 2004): 146-76.
Locke, Hubert G., ed. Exile in the Fatherland: Martin Niemöller’s Letters from Moabit Prison. Translated by Ernst Kaernke et al. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1986.
Miller, Basil. Martin Niemöller: Hero of the Concentration Camp. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1952.
Mottu, Henry. “In Memoriam: Martin Niemoller (1892-1984).” Mid-Stream (1984): 417-20.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Martin Niemöller.” https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007391.
WHY WEREN’T THERE MORE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES WHEN THEY WERE NEEDED MOST?
“Whoever saves a life, saves a world entire.” Talmud
The scene that grips my soul from Schindler’s List is towards the end of the movie when Oskar Schindler is given the ring with this inscription engraved inside from the people on “His List.” He chokes up and begins to repeat a simple phrase, “I could have done more. I could have done more.” Honestly, I don’t make it through that scene without crying and I have seen the movie several times. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDGDt2W2H04)
Why? Because there should have been more European Christians and European churches who considered the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and lived them out instead of hiding behind the relative safety of their closed doors and locked windows.
“Only he who cries out for the Jews, may sing Gregorian chants.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Christian theologian David Gushee writes in his seminal work, Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, that the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” would not have been possible without both the passive acceptance and active participation of the local populace. In other words, it wasn’t that the “good church people” of the towns were bystanders to what was happening … they were as often or not activists in the activity of killing or turning in their Jewish neighbors.
Yes, the Nazis/Gestapo were very adept at utilizing fear tactics to turn “good” people into bystanders and statues. However, this does not explain why Gushee goes on to give the number of only 100,000 Righteous Gentiles during the war years. If Schindler could have done more, then surely there were more than 100,000 Gregorian chant singers in Europe from 1939 to 1945.
Here are three that are worth mentioning and perhaps you have never heard of them.
COUNT ANDREY SZEPTYCKI
Unlike Pope Pius XII whose relative silence during the Shoah still creates controversy that the Vatican still cannot overcome, the actions of the Metropolitan of the Greek Catholic Church during World War II faces only one debate for his actions – does he or does he not belong in Yad Vashem despite that the fact that he personally saved more than one hundred Jewish lives, including 21 in the Lvov Cathedral, and openly ordered Greek Catholic priests to preach against the murder of Ukrainian Jews.
Why? Because he like Martin Niemöller and was a nationalist who at first saw the Communists as a greater evil the Nazi invaders. This is the struggle that Yad Vashem faces yearly as the Ukrainian survivors who owe their lives to Archbishop continue to plead their case for his inclusion into the forest of heroes.
Did this church leader do enough? Perhaps not. Did he do more than Pius XII? Definitely. Does he belong within the confines of Yad Vashem? Who knows but there are generations of Jewish people alive because of what he did and his view that no one is lesser in the sight of God.
PASTOR ANDRE TROCME AND THE CITIZENS OF LE CHAMBON
As the leader of a small French group of Reformed Hugenots in a small village and himself a pacifist, Pastor Trocme perhaps could not have imagined that his family and church would become of the leading underground centers for Jews in France. However, by the end of the war more between 2,500 to 3,500 French Jews were rescued through the network of LeChambon and other neighboring villages. For their actions, the citizens of the city of LeChambon and the family Trocme were recognized as Righteous Gentiles by Yad Vashem.
Pastor Trocme and his assistant were arrested and warned to stop their activities but they refused. His nephew was murdered at Majdanek but still they continued because according to Trocme every person was precious in God’s eyes. He additionally wrote after the war in his work, Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution: “The church, if unfaithful, is no longer compared to the widow suffering injustice, but to the salt of the earth that has lost its savor and is, therefore, responsible for the corruption of the world.”
“We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the gospel.” (May 1940 – after the German invasion of France)
ZOFIA KOSSAK-SZCZUCKA AND ZEGOTA
Life would be much easier if Explore Messiah…? could find a perfect example of a “Righteous Gentile.” The perfect example would be one who was “Righteous” for idealistic, altruistic reasons but as Joey and Phoebe on “Friends” acknowledged long ago – “there is no selfless good deed” – except in the one that Jesus did for humanity on the cross. (For a Joey/Phoebe memory — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DowJfUmlzeI).
This is never more true than the “Righteous Gentile” story of the Polish organization Zegota and the powerful woman Zofia Kossak-Szczucka. The organization and the woman were both proud Catholic and Polish in origin which lent itself to more than a trace than anti-Semitic attitudes towards the Jewish people. In fact, in her pamphlet Protest protesting the destruction of Warsaw’s Jewry, Kossak-Szczucka wrote the following: “We Catholic Poles, form our voice. Our feelings toward Jews have not changed. We do not stop thinking about them as political, economic and ideological enemies of Poland. Moreover we do realize, that they still hate us more than Germans, that they make us co-responsible for their misfortune. Why? On which basis? It remains the secret of the Jewish soul. Nevertheless, that is a fact that is continuously confirmed. Awareness of those feelings, doesn’t relieve us from the duty to condemn the crime.” Ouch. Yes, she was anti-Semitic which was not unusual for many if not most Polish Catholics of her time; however, she pushed aside those feelings for the greater good of humanity because she also wrote in the same pamphlet: “Dying Jews are surrounded only by Pilates washing their hands. Silence shouldn’t be tolerated anymore. If for no other reason — it is mean. Those who are silent in the face of murder – become partners of the killer. Those who do not condemn – approve… We don’t want to be Pilates. We have no power to actively prevent German murders, we cannot help, we cannot save anyone, but we protest from the bottom of our hearts overwhelmed with mercy, fury and horror. We are required by God to protest. God who forbids us to kill. We are required by out Christian consciousness. Every human being has the right to be loved by his fellowmen. Blood of the defenseless cries to heaven for revenge. Those who oppose our protest – are not Catholics.” Talk about a riddle wrapped inside a puzzle wrapped inside an enigma!
Additionally, Kossak-Szczucka and Zegota partnered with the more well-known Irena Sendler (perhaps one who was closest to a true altruistic individual) to rescue thousands of Warsaw’s Jewish children. And for this and other actions, Kossak-Szczucka was arrested and herself sent to Auschwitz (September 1943) but was released to participate in the Polish Warsaw uprising in 1944. Additionally, Yad Vashem recognized her actions as well, despite her overt anti-Semitic views, in the Avenue of the Righteous in 1982 because her actions were greater than her words (http://db.yadvashem.org/righteous/family.html?language=en&itemId=4015763).
I hope you recognize this section was not a defense of what Christians did during the Holocaust period. It wasn’t. We blew it big time. It wasn’t even an explanation because there is none. Hopefully , it will just be the beginning point for a conversation. So … let’s talk about it at the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board.
Gushee, David. Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust: Genocide and Moral Obligation, 2nd ed. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2003.
Lipman,Steven. “Righteous Gentile or Nazi Supporter?” The New York Jewish Week 10 April 2012. http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/righteous-gentile-or-nazi-supporter/.
Pastor Andre Trocme. The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. https://jfr.org/rescuer-stories/trocme-pastor-andre/.
Rittner, Carol et al. The Holocaust and the Christian World: Reflections on the Past, Challenges for the Future. New York: Continuum, 2000.
Teo, Rachel. “Resistance Against the Holocaust by Catholic Laypeople: Zegota.” UC Santa Barbara (2005). “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Holocaust.” http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/33d/projects/church/ChurchZegotaRachel.htm
WHERE IS MY FAMILY WHO DIED IN THE SHOAH?
The question that Explore Messiah…? and Tzedakah Ministries has known was coming but now has arrived. Why? Because … it is the most difficult of questions but the most important one that we will ever answer.
Do we maintain integrity and fidelity to John 14:6 in which Jesus himself said that he alone was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one came to the Father except through Him? Do we align ourselves with Peter when he stood before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12 and stated that there was no other name or way of salvation except through Messiah Jesus? Or does Tzedakah Ministries and Explore Messiah…? take the easy road and cave to Religious PC and present a many paths, a universalistic way of salvation?
It would be easier. It would be more convenient. It would be more popular; however, we cannot do it because if universalism was true … why did Jesus die on the cross? Why did he offer his life as the perfect sacrifice for the salvation/atonement for the world? Why did he himself say that salvation is “from the Jews” (John 4:22) and Paul say that the Gospel was “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16)? No… Explore Messiah…? and Tzedakah Ministries has to take the lonely road because we care enough to tell you the truth.
However, we do not say this lightly or callously. The idea of any individual spending, especially someone who died in or survived the Holocaust, an eternity apart from God feels me personally with an anguish that is indescribable and helps me to more adequately understand what Paul wrote in Romans 9:1-3. For he stated in these verses that he would wish that he could give up his own salvation if it would mean that the Jewish people would come to believe in Messiah Jesus. Heavy words but words I do understand because of my dear, sweet friend Josef.
Josef lost absolutely everyone to the camps in Poland except his mother who was murdered before his very eyes. The rabbi became an agnostic after the war but became my friend about two years before his death. He loved me and I still love and grieve for him. I grieve for him because I sat by his bedside shortly before his death and asked him one more time to receive Jesus as Messiah. He knew that Jesus was Messiah because he acknowledged to me that his agnosticism was simply a defense mechanism for his anger at God; however, he did not want to go to heaven and not see his family. He was choosing hell intentionally and my heart broke into a million pieces. Josef died a few weeks later and while I don’t know if he changed his mind about his destiny (but I pray he did), I have to hold to the truth of John 14:6 even though the thought of my sweet Josef spending eternity in hell is a hellish thought for me. A thought that still causes my heart to be shattered into those millions of pieces.
For bottom line, eternity and Jesus and God is not a community decision but a personal one. Every single individual who has lived and died has to make it for themselves. Josef knew it and acknowledged it to me more than once. He was more afraid for his wife and mother to be in hell without him than … anything else.
However, I want to ask you a question that I have asked other Jewish individuals – what would your family who have passed away want you to believe about Jesus and his claim to be Messiah? If Jesus is the Messiah for the Jewish people, would your family want you to hold onto tradition and deny him? Or would they want you to believe and receive the truth today? I cannot make the decision for you. The community cannot make the decision for you. Your family, both living and deceased, cannot make it. Only you can make this decision…
Truly, this is life’s ultimate decision and we would love to talk with you about it on the CAFÉ Kehillah Discussion Board. Will you continue the exploration with us? I know this is the most frightening of explorations and discussions but it is one that everyone must take at some point in their lives.