by Nick Bishop
On 27 January this year, we remembered the Holocaust Memorial Day at church, a day we recall the awful extermination of over 6 million Jews in camps like Auschwitz. There were many other victims of the Nazis like communists, homosexuals, gipsies and ordinary German folk who disagreed with Hitler’s policies.
One Christian German figure who opposed the Nazis (which cost him his life) was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Not prepared to go along with Hitler’s twisted ideology, Bonhoeffer made a stand which cost him his life, thus becoming a martyr for Christ.
We should not demonise any race of people, and it is important to note that were Germans who helped some Jewish people to escape or hid them, often at the cost of their own lives or freedom.
This theme was captured in a movie called ‘Schindler’s List’ about a German called Oskar Schindler, who, no longer was prepared to stomach the horrors of the camps decided to help Jews escape to safety. The movie starred Liam Neeson as Schindler and was met with much critical acclaim. The movie was directed by Jewish-American director, Stephen Spielberg.
Another noteworthy movie to mention is ‘Valkyrie’. This movie tells the story of a high ranking German officer, Von Stauffenberg, who led a rebellion to assassinate Hitler. Von Stauffenberg could see Hitler’s policies were leading Germany to destruction, so, he decided, along with others, to act. Unfortunately, the assassination attempt on the ‘Fuhrer’ failed and Von Stauffenberg was executed by firing squad. The movie starred Tom Cruise as Von Stauffenberg, Cruise played the part well.
Of course, we must remember the horrors of the Nazis and their victims, but we must not forget many other horrors perpetrated by equally evil regimes. For example, it is reckoned Stalin killed far more people than Hitler, as did Mao.
In modern times we have the example of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc and the recent massacres enacted by Islamic State and also of North Korea. In the 1990s, we had the Serbs massacring hundreds of Muslims not dissimilar to what the Nazis did. This was the first such atrocity in Europe since World War II which led to NATO fighting a war against Serbia.
The question has to be asked: are the same forces at work today that led to the ‘Holocaust’? The answer to that question is yes. If we look at Brexit, for example, a few days after it was announced the UK was leaving the EU, attacks occurred on all types of foreigners. Many victims were of Eastern European origin living in the UK, or, simply because they looked foreign, even though they had been born in the UK. There has also been the election of populist leaders like Trump who some have accused of being Fascist in nature. In France, there is Marine Le Pen and in Germany, the AFD. The UK is not immune from such forces and with UKIP, minus Nigel Farage, it seems the party is in danger of veering to the far right.
When we saw the awful footage of extermination camps over ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’, we must not allow it to feed any racism or hate towards present-day Germany. If we do, we are ourselves guilty of racism which can lead (as history has shown), to horrors like the ‘Holocaust’.
I remember my dad telling me about visiting Belsen after the war when he was in the army. He told me it was a place of evil where the birds never sang and the grass never grew. Even nature, it seems, sensed the evil that took place there.
The Jewish people today, have a home in the Middle East, a land called Israel. Named after their ancestor’s nation in the Old Testament, a land chosen for them by God. Israel today is a land where Jews can live securely and in peace, whether they be religious or not. Israel today is probably the only true democracy in that region of the world and a major power too. Israeli Arabs also have the right to live in Israel as long as they accept that Israel is first and foremost, a Jewish state. As far as the Christian community is concerned, Israel has many supporters but also many detractors. Zionist Christians believe the founding of Israel in 1948 was the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and the harbinger of the eventual return of Christ. Other Christians, however, worry about its policies towards the Palestinians. They cite the example of Jesus who never took sides in any conflict and loved everyone.
Finally then, as we remember the victims of the Nazi regime, which must rank as one of the most brutal campaigns in history (that of humans destroying other humans) we pray for peace around the world and for those enduring such actions today.
God bless you xx.
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