Remembering the Lessons of the Holocaust
by Barney Kasdan, Messianic Rabbi
It defies logic. It is almost incomprehensible. How can we imagine the depths of the Holocaust? Six million people murdered simply because they were identified as Jews. Among those were 1 1/2 million Jewish children who were killed because they represented the future of our people. We can never forget that additional victims included an estimated five million Gentiles who were murdered for various reasons, some of them for their stand for their Jewish neighbors. These were not war casualties (some 30 million total) but people targeted for death because of their race or belief. That the Christian community should also be concerned about Yom Hashoah is best illustrated by the insightful quote of German Pastor Martin Niemaller (himself a prisoner of Dachau): “It is shocking to realize that Hitler essentially accomplished his ‘final solution to the Jewish problem’ in the lands that his Nazi troops conquered. One can only wonder what would have happened if the Nazis would have not been defeated by the Allied forces”.
Thankfully, the last question is merely hypothetical. Am Yisrael Chai! Out of the darkness of Nazi Europe rose the light of the modern state of Israel. The Jewish community worldwide is finding renewed growth and strength. Yet, Yom Hashoah leaves many people with some lingering and disturbing questions. Many still wonder what the Holocaust tells us about G-d. It seems the better question is what the Holocaust tells us about the human heart. As for G-d himself, I believe He tells us through the prophets what He has been doing at times of this kind of suffering for Israel:
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old” [Isaiah 63:10].Â
While we grieve (as G-d does) as we remember the 1/3 of our people who perished, we should also recall that if it wasn’t for the intervention of the Holy One, the remaining 2/3 would not have survived! While the sceptic is tempted to blame G-d for things like the Holocaust, the person of faith actually becomes stronger. We can see with spiritual eyes the victory of G-d’s kingdom over the falleness of mankind in this present age.
What makes the Holocaust even more difficult to understand for many of our people is how such atrocities could occur in a so-called Christian Europe? For this, I will not offer a superficial answer. Clearly, many of these people, while claiming to be Christians were not following his clear teachings. Yeshua even warned of people who would claim to be his but whom he didn’t even know! In his words, “a good tree cannot produce bad fruit” [cf. Matthew 7:18-23]. Many people are heartened by the fact that both the Catholic and Lutheran churches have recently sought forgiveness for any antisemitism, theological or otherwise. The sad history between the church and synagogue is a deep wound that has caused a massive chasm between the Jewish people and our own Messiah, Yeshua. What is the most important lesson to be learned from the tragedy of the Holocaust? If mankind is not to fall into such wickedness again, we must live the words of Yeshua as he was asked which was the greates t of the mitzvot:
“The foremost is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our G-d, The Lord is One; And you shall love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. [Mark 12:29-31].