International Holocaust Remembrance Day: A biblical reflection and response

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: A biblical reflection and response January 26, 2024

Note: For more on today’s discussion, please see my latest website paper: “Why the ‘Holocaust’ was not a holocaust: A reflection on the gravest crime in human history.” I also invite you to listen to our new podcast on today’s subject, “Confronting the past: Why International Holocaust Remembrance Day matters.”

Why did Hitler hate the Jews?

Why do so many people share his antisemitic animosity?

Tomorrow is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated by the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazis’ largest extermination and concentration camp, by Soviet soldiers on January 27, 1945.

This annual remembrance focuses on the six million Jews murdered by the German Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. One-fourth of them, 1.5 million, were children.

We remember the horror of antisemitic hatred so it will not rise again in our day.

But it is.

Antisemitism is surging on college campuses, part of a growing tide of animosity against Jews in America, Europe, and around the world. The Anti-Defamation League is reporting an unprecedented 337 percent increase in antisemitic incidents after Hamas invaded Israel on October 7, massacring more than 1,200 Jews.

What can we learn from the past to keep it from happening again in the present?

“The arsenal of antisemitism”

The roots of antisemitism go back centuries before Hitler:

  • There was a widespread belief in Christian Europe that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ.
  • Because they rejected the Christian faith, they were considered agents of the devil.
  • During the Middle Ages, laws restricted and prevented Jews from owning land or holding public office.
  • They were excluded from most occupations, forcing them to make a living through money-lending, trade, and commerce. When they became successful at these professions, they were accused of using them to oppress their non-Jewish clients and community.
  • They were also accused of causing plagues, murdering children for religious rituals, and secretly conspiring to dominate the world.

After World War I, the new Nazi Party and its leader, Adolf Hitler, blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat, falsely claiming that German Jews had “stabbed Germany in the back.” When his party took power in 1933, their antisemitic racism became official government policy and led ultimately to the “Final Solution,” the Nazis’ genocidal attempt to eradicate all Jews.

Three steps to a better world

From the Garden of Eden to today, one dimension of our sinful nature is our desire to blame others for our sins. When God called Adam to account for his sin, Adam blamed Eve (Genesis 3:12), then Eve blamed the serpent (v. 13).

Like our first parents, we are all tempted to blame others for our failures.

When Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat in World War I, his rhetoric found national support and led to the most horrific genocide in human history. Hamas does the same today, blaming the Jews for the plight of the Palestinian people and other suffering around the world.

How does God want us to respond to this perennial temptation?

One: Take personal responsibility for our sins.

Satan loves to tempt us to sin, then tempt us to blame others when we sin. The second sin only compounds the first and distracts from the forgiveness we need. Instead, we should immediately admit our sin, confess it to our Father, and claim his mercy and grace (1 John 1:9).

Two: Oppose racial prejudice in every way we can.

Such prejudice is one way inferior people can make themselves feel superior to others. If we decide that Jews—or Blacks, or Asians, or any other minority—are innately “inferior” to us, we therefore think we are superior people. This, too, comes from the “father of lies” (John 8:44) who comes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Instead, pray for God’s heart to love all people as unconditionally as he loves them (Galatians 3:28). Then help answer your prayer with redemptive acts of ministry and grace.

Three: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).

Intercede daily for Israel and the Palestinians as they seek security and justice. Pray for global leaders to act with wisdom and courageous resolve. Pray for war in the Middle East to end and for righteousness to prevail.

If every follower of Christ took these steps every day, imagine the impact on our broken world. Imagine the consequences for Jews and all other persecuted peoples. Imagine the lost people who would be drawn to our Father as their Savior.

Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) observed:

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.”

Let’s choose faith and hope today, to the glory of God.

Friday news to know

Quote for the day

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.” —Anne Lamott

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