Lest We Forget...

In just a few moments on 26th December last year a tsunami in the Indian Ocean claimed the lives of thousands of hapless victims. The region where the monster wave struck has not yet recovered and its victims are still in urgent need of aid. One month after the Boxing Day disaster, on 27th January, we commemorated the liberation of Auschwitz. Sixty years on, the international Jewish community is still suffering from the trauma of the Holocaust
If the death of a single person is tragic, how much more the death of thousands at the same time? If the loss of many lives through a natural catastrophe is appalling, how much more the cold-blooded, premeditated murder of millions? Western Europe is still haunted by the spectre of the Holocaust and the memory that in our time a plan was devised which, had it been successful, would have eliminated an entire ethnic group in Europe. Three generations after Dachau and Belsen, Jewish thinkers, philosophers and theologians still wrestle with the theological implications of the Holocaust. If the Jews are the people of God, where was God when the six million died? Was there a redemptive purpose in the ovens of Auschwitz? Was the Holocaust a punishment for the sins of the Jewish people? If the Messiah is to come, why did he not come then? All these questions and more have been asked, and numerous solutions have been proposed without any one commanding universal acceptance.

Some Gentile Christians believe the answer is simple and self-evident: the Holocaust was a divine chastisement on European Jewry for rejecting their Messiah. It is certainly true that throughout Israel’s three-and-a-half thousand year history the nation has experienced divine judgements, most notably at the hands of Assyria, Babylon and Rome. But the Holocaust falls into a different category to these tragedies. If we are going to draw parallels, the Final Solution looks more like Haman’s conspiracy to exterminate the Jewish nation than, say, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Rather than regarding the Holocaust as an outpouring of divine wrath, might it not be more accurate therefore to see it as another satanic attempt to destroy the Jews?

The Jewish people have a long collective memory and on 25th and 26th March they will celebrate Purim, the festival that commemorates the national deliverance recorded in the book of Esther. Christians, too, have reason to be grateful to God for the foiling of Haman’s “Final Solution”, for had his plot succeeded the Messianic hope would have perished with the Jewish nation. Should we not also remember the Holocaust and commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz, albeit for different reasons? If the most cultured nation in Europe could conspire to annihilate those it considered inferior, and enjoy the support of the national church, who can say that something similar will not happen in the future? And the next time it might not be the Jewish people; we and our children may be the victims. But if we allow ourselves to forget the past and its lessons, and should the Jews ever again be targeted for elimination, it may be we or our children who become their executioners.

Mike Moore

This article first appeared in the March 2005 edition of the Herald

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