YOM HASHOAH: Holocaust Remembrance Day
A few years ago after recapping the horrors of the Holocaust on a large church campus, I was approached by a woman. While others lamented the atrocities perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Regime, her response visibly jolted the group around me. With a shrug, she blandly said, “We knew what Hitler was doing. What could we do?”
The encounter still haunts me. What would cause someone to dismiss personal responsibility to intervene on behalf of the oppressed? Who could close eyes to the innocent Jewish victims? Did she value life so little?
On Yom Hashoah, we remember one of the most horrific stains on the history of mankind. Men, women, boys and girls ranging from infants to elderly were sadistically herded into cattle cars and hauled to Nazi death camps because they were Jewish.
Underlying the woman’s comment, a latent attitude surfaces: It’s none of my business. Why should I care?
The late Elie Wiesel, a survivor dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, defined our moral obligation to speak on behalf of the oppressed:
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (1)
The New Testament perspective is equally compelling:
“. . . if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled . . . For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:14, 16-17).
Here, the apostle Peter argues that even though there may be repercussions, Christians should at all times to do what is morally right. In the context of the passage, a Christian should always be prepared to defend the faith or act in a righteous way giving evidence of authentic Christianity.
It is not for me to judge the lady who quipped, What could we do? Every human being will account for deeds done in life before Almighty God.
There were lone souls and others operating within clandestine networks that defied the status quo and demonstrated fantastic courage in the face of evil during the Holocaust. Not all were successful. Some were betrayed. But, many Jewish lives were saved by the “righteous among the nations” who refused to be bystanders.
These heroes acted on conviction. Their efforts countered the evil in prevailing culture. What they did to make a difference is still evident in the fact that there are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors alive today.
The question for Christians is not “What could we do?” like the woman asked decades after the fact. Rather, “What can I do to combat anti-Semitism today?”
Heroic efforts at a crisis point are imperative. Christians have a moral obligation and a biblical mandate to do more than just talk about evil. We must speak and act on behalf of God’s Chosen People. Holocaust expert and historian Yehuda Bauer counsels any willing to listen: “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.” (2)
1) Elie Wiesel, “Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech,” The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, December 10, 1986.
2) Yehuda Bauer, “Discussion Paper 1 On The Holocaust and It’s Implications: In The Wake of Holocaust Day January 27, 2006.”
1) Child survivors of Auschwitz, wearing adult-size prisoner jackets, stand behind a barbed wire fence. (Photo credit: Alexander Voronzow and others in his group, ordered by Mikhael Oschurkow, head of the photography unit [Public domain]/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.