You cannot look at the anti-Semitism of today without looking back at the anti-Semitism of the past. And the biggest anti-Semitic event in history was, of course, the Holocaust.
On 27th January every year, we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. This is a time for us to pause and remember the millions of people who were murdered and the many more whose lives were changed beyond imagination as a result of the Holocaust.
In the 1930’s, Hitler was able to unite and galvanise a nation with his passionate speeches. Yet, while many were filled with a belief that he was leading them to utopia, his same words struck fear in the hearts of the Jewish community and those who discerned the truth.
Even though the views of Hitler were not necessarily held by the majority of the country, by the time he had taken power, it was too late. The path he took his followers on led to the world’s largest genocide in history, where more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children were systematically murdered.
Here is a story of a man who lived during the Holocaust, written by Penny Lea:
“I lived in Germany during the Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it?
A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realised that the train was carrying Jews… Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church… their cries tormented us.
We decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore… I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.”
It makes you wonder how God would have felt, watching as Christians sang Him praises, while at the same time, turning their backs on His people.
This story should be a wake up call to Christians. During the war many Christians would have felt powerless to help the Jews and thus turned their backs and ’sang a little louder’. At the same time, other Christians risked everything to save the Jews.
As the late Lord Weidenfeld said, “thousands of Jews, mainly women and children, were helped by Christians who took enormous personal risks to save them from certain death. We owe a debt of gratitude.”
The ultimate victory over the Nazis was when the majority-Christian Allied nations came together to defeat the Axis powers. This was not a triumph of one nation against another nation, more importantly, it was a victory of good over evil.
During these six years of War in Europe more people were killed than during any other event in history. And with the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of the concentration camps, there has been a feeling that anti-Semitism was all but wiped out.
The reality is, anti-Semitism was not wiped out with the Nazis. This false sense of security seems to have left Europe unprepared for what is happening today. Europe was at the centre of the Holocaust just over 70-years-ago and, unfortunately, it is once again the place where anti-Semitism is taking hold. Experts say that European Jews have not felt this threatened since World War II.
This is evidenced by the fact that in 2015 more Jews left Western Europe for Israel than ever before. The main reason is the increase of anti-Semitic attacks accross Europe. The UK, France, Germany and Sweden are just a few of the countries that have seen dramatic increases in anti-Semitic incidents in the past year. Just this month German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, admitted that anti-Semitism in Germany is “more widespread than we imagine.”
To think that just 71 years ago, the Jewish people were being freed after enduring the worst genocide in human history, and to see now that once again the Jewish people are being attacked and threatened in the same way that they were before the Holocaust should be a wake up call to us all.
When the state of Israel was reborn, a homeland for the Jewish people came into existence. Since its birth it has endured relentless attack. It is the rise of the anti-Israel movement, radical Islam and the neo-Nazis have brought with them the rise of anti-Semitism.
When Israel is attacked it affects the Jewish people around the world. As Christians, we must remain vigilant and stand with the Jewish people. We cannot ignore these threats and hope they go away. We cannot hide in our churches and ’sing a little louder’.
Israel and the Jewish people need their Christian allies once again.
‘For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.’ Isaiah 62:1
Please help us stand with Israel and the Jewish people. Together, we must ensure the horrors of the past are never repeated.