The further we move away from an event, the harder it is to remember it, its details and even its outcome. Any event enters the annals of history the minute they take place, and there is nothing man can do to erase that event from our collective memories. Nothing can take it away unless it is an event that the vast majority of people wish to forget or even tell the rest of the world it never happened. There are four types of people in any event of history: the victims, the helpers, the perpetrators and the bystanders. As it pertains to the Holocaust, they all need to be remembered.
Not only do we run the risk of forgetting an event, but we also run the risk of allowing history to repeat itself. When it comes to the Holocaust, it would be tragic on both levels. In January 2020, we remember the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau (1/25), and we also commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day (1/27). As Forty heads of states and key representatives gather to pay tribute to the victims and the helpers (Righteous Among the Nations), the rest of the world is invited to post a photo of themselves with the hashtag #WeRemember.
The beauty of a hashtag is that it inserts itself into the worldwide web to never disappear or be changed, and that has power in and of itself. Once composed and posted, a hashtag serves as a beacon bringing people to a particular topic, where all similar hashtags congregate. It can be very helpful. The downside of a hashtag is that too many people use them as gimmicks to satisfy their own conscience. Can someone post #WeRemember or #FightAntisemitism and feel satisfied that they have done their good deed to speak up against the Holocaust and antisemitism? Sure they can, but does it really help?
Hashtags alone only serve to point to the gravity of the Holocaust and the danger of the new antisemitism, as much as a repeated word can. Hashtags will not defeat Holocaust deniers, historical revisionists and antisemites. Hashtags are the bumper stickers of the twenty-first century, they make a statement in passing as they move to their eternal abode in cyberspace.
They don’t speak up, they don’t sign petitions, they don’t march on the street in protest, they can’t teach history, ethics or morality. We need people for all that. Create all the hashtags you want, they might tug on the strings of our hearts, but until we move into action, nothing will change.
We can do so much more:
• Visit one of the numerous US-based (30 states) Holocaust memorial/museums like the one in Washington DC or even Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. If you cannot visit a museum, get online to their sites and learn from their extensive databases and research tools.
• Read on the topic. Start with the autobiographical short book “Night” by Elie Wiesel. Move on to “The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 by Lucy Dawidowicz. Then in an effort to understand how the Holocaust further affected Jewish/Christian relations, read “The Jewish People and Jesus Christ After Auschwitz” by Jakob Jocz.
• Please, share your knowledge with the next generation. Two-thirds of millennials do not know what Auschwitz was. Additionally, 22% of Americans have never heard of the Holocaust.
• Attend marches and/or protests in your city or near you if they take place to show your support to the Jewish community and your disagreement with the enemies of Israel.
• Be ready to even go further by helping Jewish people in dire need. We can be proactive in 2020 instead of reactive in the 1930s and 40s. Things might get worse before they get better.
The African American communities should not stop telling their people about slavery and segregation, just like the Native American communities should not stop educating their young ones about the poor treatment and fate of their forefathers. So, why should we stop speaking of the Holocaust and why should we let those who deny it, get away with it?
Remembering a happy and positive moment requires no action but simply bring pleasure as we reminisce. When we are called to remember a somber moment on mankind’s timeline, remembering the event is just the tip of the iceberg. Sharing our memories, past experiences and teaching others about those events is key. Very soon, all the survivors of the Holocaust will be gone and the task of continuing to honor their memory will fall on those of us who still believe that the Holocaust happened and it could happen again. So, YES, we need to continue talking about the Holocaust, today more than ever!
On January 7, 2016, The U.S. Department of State issued a statement in which Secretary of State John Kerry wanted to recognize the victims of the Paris attacks of January 7, 8, 9, 2015. The statement was short and read as follows: “On the one-year anniversary of the January 7-9, 2015, attacks that took the lives of 17 people, we honor the victims of this tragedy and share the sadness of their loss. Their legacy endures as a challenge and inspiration to all of us. Charlie Hebdo continues to publish, and journalists around the world continue in their essential mission to tell the stories that people everywhere need to hear. No country knows better than France that freedom has a price, and that no rationale can justify attacks on innocent men, women, and children. But what was intended to sow fear and division has, in fact, brought us together. We must remain committed to protect each other and renew our determination to turn this moment of profound loss into a lasting commitment. Just as we tackle today’s most daunting challenges side by side, the United States and France will always stand together.”
At first glance, the statement appeared to be remembering the victims of the Paris triple terrorist attack that took place, and that’s commendable. But something is profoundly wrong with that statement, not so much in what it says but in what it failed to mention. This was a case when silence spoke louder than words!
Mr. Kerry is mentioning the 17 victims and how their tragic death united France and the United States, and continues to do so in our on-going fight against terrorism. But why is Mr. Kerry only mentioning the Charlie Hebdo magazine? The 17 victims were made of 3 groups: 12 victims from Charlie Hebdo, one police officer on the street and four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket. There is no mention of the police officer or the four Jewish victims. The whole tragedy is bundled under the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It is not my intention to belittle the magazine’s 12 deaths or the police officer’s death, but the attack was more than an attack against freedom of the press. It was also an attack against freedom of religion.
I have no doubt that if the terror attack of January 2015 in Paris had only been against the four Jewish shoppers, there would have not been a 4 million people march in France the following week-end. Similarly, outside of the French Jewish community, the Toulouse attack of 2012 by Mohammed Merah is mostly forgotten, yet it took the life of 7 people, including a rabbi and 3 Jewish day school children.
In the recent statement by John Kerry, I don’t believe that not making reference to the Jewish victims was an oversight. He, along with the vast majority of the current U.S. administration are no friends of Israel and the Jewish people. It would have gone a long way if the Jewish victims had been acknowledged along with the police officer and the magazine. Instead, a blanket statement was made, only connecting the event to the magazine.
After all, it was President Obama who right after the attack, described the Jewish victims shopping at the kosher supermarket a few hours before Shabbat as” a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris” who had been “randomly shot.” This is either a lack of sensitivity or a severe disconnect with reality. There is no doubt in everybody’s mind that the terrorist Amédy Coulibally picked the Hypercacher store on purpose. It was a Jewish store where Jewish people shopped for kosher food, especially on Friday afternoons before the Sabbath.
So for John Kerry not to mention the Jewish victim is a diplomatic faux pas at best and antisemitism by omission at worst. It would have been easy to say “12 members of the Charlie Hebdo staff, one police officer in the line of duty and four Jewish people shopping in a kosher Market.”
The world is used to antisemitism by commission when Jewish people are ostracized, demonized, persecuted and even murdered. This is a form of hatred that can be measured in a tangible way. A stabbed person, a defaced Jewish tombstone or a burned synagogue door are all visual witnesses of antisemitism by commission.
But when the Jewish people are categorized as regular folks after an antisemitism attack, re-labelled or totally ignored when they should be remembered as victims, it is antisemitism by omission. Most people already don’t care much about the devastation brought in by antisemitism by commission. They certainly will not pick-up on the subtle approach of antisemitism by omission.
When it comes to Judeo/Christian relations, the Catholic Church carries centuries of baggage from anti-Judaism to anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the Catholic Church was officially propelled onto the world scene and continued to widen a theological gap between Christians and Jews. A gap that would also become political, sociological and geographical until it came to its apex in the 1930s and 40s when it was given a pseudo-racial twist. Let’s face it, in the Jewish psyche, the Catholic Church is responsible for a lot of anti-Semitism, but be that as it may, not all Catholics are anti-Semites.
This is not a witch hunt against Catholics, yet it must be said that most of the Jewish persecution by the early Church and through the Middle Ages was performed by Catholic leaders who were also the representative of Christianity and technically of Christ on earth. The Crusades, the Blood Libel, the Host desecrations, the Black Plague, the Inquisition, the Pogroms and the Holocaust are all intertwined in a web of deceit that eventually leads back to the Catholic Church on way or another. Much of this was initiated by the Church and progressively picked-up throughout history to become lethal to the Jews as best explained by Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg in The Destruction of the European Jews. He saw the fate of the Jewish people as a three-step process over time: “From the 4th century the Christian missionaries told the Jews ‘you may not live among us as Jews’. The secular governments who followed them from the late middle-aged decided ‘you may not live among us’ and de Nazis finely decreed ‘you may not live’. Hillberg spoke of ostracism followed by expulsion and annihilation. In a nutshell, this is the history of my people.
From the early Church Fathers (200 CE) until 1965, the Catholic Church held all Jewish people corporately responsible for the Crucifixion of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus.) It wasn’t until 1965, during Vatican II under Pope Paul VI, that the accusation was rescinded. In a declaration known as Nostra Aetate (In our times), Pope Paul VI promulgated that Jews were no longer to be held guilty of deicide (the killing of God.) The hope was that this “Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions” would exonerate the Jewish people. Of course it never occurred to the Catholic Church that nowhere in the Bible are the Jews declared guilty of killing Yeshua because in His own words, He gave His own life for all mankind as it is recorded in the Gospel of John 10:17-18, 17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
Additionally, the Catholic Church has long felt that they had replaced ethnic Israel in the plan of God. All the blessings that God had promised to bestow upon Israel would apparently be transferred to the Catholic Church or even to all Christians to speak more broadly. All Covenants made between God and the Jewish people would now apply to the “New Israel” or spiritual Israel. This is commonly known as Replacement Theology, and this also cannot be substantiated by Scripture as long as you apply a consistent, literal and contextual system of interpretation.
While we continue to witness both anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism within the Catholic ranks, there has been an effort from several Popes to reconcile with the Jewish community even further. So much so that the current Pope has now announced that Jewish people do not need Jesus and that the Catholic Church should not try to convert Jewish people. There has been a certain amount of collective Catholic guilt regarding their treatment of the Jewish people. This rather recent reaction or possibly over-reaction, seeing the Jewish people as covenantal people in no need of Yeshua does a lot of good for the healing of Judeo/Christian relations. In a recent statement, Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs reaffirms the importance of such a move by the current Pope: “This new Vatican document is a remarkable reaffirmation of the positive changes in the Church’s teaching about Jews and Judaism since the promulgation of Nostra Aetate 50 years ago. It is significant because it places a very clear emphasis on the rejection of the deicide charge, Christianity’s indebtedness to Judaism, the rejection of replacement theology, and the ongoing validity of the Jewish covenant with God.”
It is true that the Jewish people could easily do away with centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, Jewish history has been recorded in blood for the most part. That history is part of the Christian baggage that cannot be unloaded. It would behoove Christians to stop believing what they have heard about the Jewish people and not add to this already overwhelmingly heavy baggage. To that end, the 1965 Declaration of Nostra Aetate might have helped somewhat, and the current papacy might even contribute further, unfortunately the roots of anti-Semitism–Christian or not–go very, very deep!
It is also true that the Jewish people have not been replaced by Catholics, Christians or any other people group who might consider themselves the “New Israel.” That rejection of Replacement Theology was made clear in the declaration of 1965. It might not have been adopted by Catholics the world over, but it remains an “Ex Cathedra” statement by the Pope, and as such should leave no option but obedience to it by Catholics worldwide. Human nature often gets in the way, I am afraid!
And of course, it is of the utmost importance to stop trying to “convert” Jews to Christianity. But is it possible that the reason for such a change is different that what the Pope would expect. Simply put, Jews don’t convert because they have no need to convert. If indeed, Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah (Isaiah 52:13-53-12) then there is nothing more natural for a Jewish person than to follow their Jewish Messiah. It is a personal choice that nobody can force us to make. So in a sense, the Pope is right, Jews do not ever need to convert to Yeshua, yet if it turns out that He [Yeshua] is the Jewish Messiah spoken of by the Jewish Prophets (Gen. 49:10, Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7, Mic. 5:2), then maybe it would benefit the Jewish people to follow Him.
77 years ago during the night of November 9-10, 1938, Jewish people, businesses and synagogues suffered greatly throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia. This ominous night continues to be remembered as Kristallnacht or “the Night of Broken Glass”. It consisted of a series of pogroms (organized riots) against Jewish communities during which 267 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed. It also resulted in 91 Jewish people being killed. Additionally, 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Joseph Goebbels orchestrated the whole thing. Reputable historians see Kristallnacht as the inception of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem” that is the Holocaust.
The reason given for Kristallnacht was the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a young Polish Jew living in Paris at the time. The life of one German man precipitated the destruction of thousands of Jewish properties and the deportation and death of millions of Jews. In reality the death of Ernst Vom Rath was simply a pretext for pogroms and mass boycotts against the Jewish community.Remembering Kristallnacht is crucial for our global village. We live in a postmodern and post Christian world under the constant threat of historical revisionism. Holocaust deniers are indeed gaining ground as most of the few remaining Camp survivors are now dying off. So we must not only remember Kristallnacht, but we must also learn from this tragic night. Looking at how the world is handling this important memorial of Nazi boycott and the official launch of the Holocaust, I wonder if we have actually learned anything from Kristallnacht?
Germany should of course tread very, very lightly when it comes to Kristallnacht, but instead we see some odd behaviors like the march of the Pegida Far Right party on the day of the anniversary of Kristallnach. In Dresden, one of the many German cities where the Pegida marches regularly take place, a local cultural organization was very troubled: “it was ‘incomprehensible’ that Pegida was allowed to hold the march on Monday night. ‘Kristallnacht is one of the darkest nights in the German history, the association was quoted by the regional Dresden newspaper ‘Sächsische Zeitung’ as saying. ‘We cannot understand this decision and are sad and deeply ashamed. It shows that we are giving space to hatred.'”
I join the concerned Germans who voiced their outrage at the fact that a “neo-Nazi” party would be allowed to march on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. This is just another reason why I have identified and named this new wave Jew hatred, End-Times anti-Semitism, because of its irrational mix of all previous brands of anti-Semitism.
Additionally, Munich allowed for a BDS event (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) to take place on the same November 9 night. As most of the BDS events and propaganda, this event hid behind the the facade of boycott against the “Jewish State” when in reality it prescribes not buying from Jews. Germany is currently dealing with a tremendous wave of refugees that will possibly reach 1,500,000 but year’s end. While I believe that Germany is going overboard with their refugees intake, I commend Mrs. Merkel for her desire to reach out and help needy immigrants. But I can’t help but wonder if Chancellor Merkel’s approach to immigration isn’t a knee-jerk reaction still connected to the post-war German collective guilt? And if indeed that is the case, why are the Jewish people brushed aside by minimizing the anniversary of Kristallnacht?
Sweden is also contributing to this Kristallnacht “Twilight Zone.” The city of Umea organized a Kristallnacht memorial but for some odd reason, the Jewish community wasn’t invited. One of the reasons given by the organizers was that Jewish people wouldn’t be appropriately protected in case of anti-Jewish activity. Some officials worried about how the whole event would unravel: “In previous years, we have had a lot of Palestinian flags at these rallies, and even one banner where the Israeli flag was equated with a swastika,” organizer and local Workers’ Party member Jan Hägglund told locals. “The Jewish community wasn’t invited because we assumed they might be uncomfortable around that sort of thing.”
Seriously, if Palestinians equating Israel to the new Nazis of the Middle East seems to be a concern, why don’t they ban Palestinians from a Kristallnacht commemoration? This backwards diplomacy is oxymoronic and so counter-productive, not to mention anti-Semitic.Another event took place in Amsterdam where Arab MK Hanin Zoabi denounced Israel as being a modern day Nazi state. She was participating in yet another Kristallnacht commemoration, but didn’t see the irony–not to call it anti-Semitism–of describing Israel in similar terms as Nazi Germany “The Israeli rules, said Zoabi, are similar to the conditions under which Jews lived at the time of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany.”
I fear that the world hasn’t learned much from the events of November 9-10, 1938. Kristallnacht is about Jews being ostracized, demonized and massacred, period. If some countries cannot recognize that simple historical fact, they should refrain from organizing memorials of this infamous night in Jewish history. Their hypocrisy could be replaced by indifference, but at least, we would all know where they stand on Israel and the Jewish people. That of course requires global chutzpah, which is in short supply these days!