International Holocaust Remembrance Day


Note to reader: The below article was written for Travelujah in 2010 by Kasey Barr. It remains as relevant today as it was 11 years ago.

This morning I picked up the Jerusalem Post to read the headline, “PM Expected to Draw Connections Between Iran’s Nukes and Holocaust.” The article goes on to quote other leaders. “Merkel to Peres in Berlin: “Teheran’s time is up.”

Today is the official United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day and also the anniversary of the historic liberation of Auschwitz. I expected to see historic articles throughout the paper, but the main thrust of today’s headlines is a, not so subtle, warning that a second holocaust is waiting around the corner if the world does not act in some measure, and very quickly.

I find it eerie that on this day that we remember the atrocities of the past, we are confronted with a present day threat that could potentially kill more people in a few minutes then Hitler and his SS guards did in several years. On Tuesday, at the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu wrote in the guestbook, “The people of Israel have learned their lesson.” I do not doubt his words, but I question whether the world has learned its lesson as well.

This past summer I visited Dachau concentration camp right outside of Munich. It was my first visit to a concentration camp memorial. There is much to say on this subject, but that is for another blog on another day. But I remember feeling like I had stepped onto the set of some horror movie.

The heinous acts that were done there make the rational mind swim and finally go numb. I didn’t cry as I made my way through the man-made hell. I thought that the walks through the cramped housing units, gas chambers and crematorium would be very emotional, but I found that my senses were frozen. It was not until after I was away from it all that I could sort through my feelings. Even now, I have not fully unpacked the experience.

Shoes of murdered prisoners at Auschwitz. Photo courtesty: Travelujah

Toward the end of the tour, my group was lead to a large stone memorial with the words “Never Again” written in English, Hebrew, French, German and Russian. “Never Again.” I feel that our world is so detached from the atrocities and is so certain that the modern, educated world citizens of today could never return to such barbarism. But it was the most modern and educated people who masterminded the holocaust. Wishing hatred away has never been a successful strategy as history proves again and again.

I would like to believe the world has learned its lesson. But if it has not, have the Christians learned theirs? I often wonder what I would have done had I lived as a European Christian during the Second World War. Would I have been like Corrie Ten Boom who hid Jewish people in her home and marched bravely to a concentration camp when she and her family were caught?

Could I have publically spoken against Hitler like German Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose involvement in a plot to overthrow Hitler led to his imprisonment and execution in 1945?

Or would I be part of the silent mass of Christians who quietly dissented from Hitler.

Those who abhorred his government, his policies and his practices but who would never scratch below the surface afraid of what they might find. Would I have been content to be dissatisfied but passive?

The answer may come more quickly than I would like. We may all have a decision to make very soon. We do live in a period in history where there is virulent hatred toward Israel and her Jewish citizens and where there is a madman spewing numerous promises to wipe Israel from the map. The scenario, while similar to WWII, is different. Our response cannot be the same. We are not Germans and the man-making speeche of hatred is not our leader. How do we respond?

I wish I knew. But one thing I do know is that when we are faced with anti-Semitism of any kind, we must speak out. When the nation of Israel is verbally attacked for the crime of existing, we must answer in defense. And if ever called upon to shoulder the burden of the Jewish people, we must be ready.

It was Dietrich Bonheoffer who said, “It is the fellowship of the cross to experience the burden of the other. If one does not experience it, the fellowship he belongs to is not Christian. If any member refuses to bear that burden, he denies the law of Christ.”

If any man has a right to make such a bold statement it is he. As I honor this day of remembrance, it is my earnest prayer that if confronted with the choice, we Christians will answer as strongly as the Corrie Ten Booms and Bonheoffers who have gone before us.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter (Proverbs 24:11-12).

The author, Kasey Bar is a PhD Candidate, Hebrew University, The Program in Political Psychology and Decision Making (POP-DM) at IDC Herzliya

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