I have been immersed during recent months in a series of new books on the Holocaust.
Fresh testimonies from people who experienced the sheer terror and trauma of those hellish days keep emerging into the cold light of day, even 77 years after the horror of the concentration camps was first revealed to the world.
One of the reasons for this delay – and a common thread I am finding in their stories – is that no-one would believe them. It was truly unbelievable.
Yet they so needed to tell their story. Keeping it to themselves would amount in many cases to a dark secret forever festering in their wounded souls, which unfortunately became the experience of too many. Not being taken seriously in the immediate aftermath of the war left many survivors to suffer in silence.
Now, with antisemitism once more on the rise, so is Holocaust denial – generally used as a political tool suggesting that somehow Israel made up the story of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in order to gain sympathy for their Zionist cause of resettling their ancient land.
It’s a tool wielded by current enemies of the Jewish state like Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, not to mention Iran, close to producing a nuclear weapon with which to carry out their long-promised threat to wipe Israel off the map.
But there are many ordinary people in the “enlightened” West who perhaps would also like to believe it didn’t happen because man is surely evolving into a better creature incapable of such atrocities.
But this contradicts the Creator’s own verdict that, as descendants of Adam, we are born with an evil instinct which cannot be dealt with without God’s help – provided in these last days by his Son Jesus who bore our sins in his body on the cross (see Isaiah 53:5).
The Holocaust is a graphic picture of where sin ultimately leads. And the immorality so rife in the West today is also a picture of sin in all its ugliness and degradation. We try to paint over the cracks with pretty rainbow-coloured flags, but it won’t do any good.
How sick that, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Munich massacre in which Palestinian terrorists murdered eleven Israeli athletes competing in the Olympic Games, the PA leader tries to minimise its seriousness by suggesting that Israel has since committed 50 holocausts of its own. And yet Western leaders continue to deal with this man, a Holocaust denier who was very much involved in inflicting further wounds on God’s chosen at Munich.
Holocaust denial anticipated
General Eisenhower anticipated this denial when he uncovered the horrors of the camps at the end of the war, insisting that photos be taken so that future generations would not be tempted to deny that such things happened. He also ordered that the German people from surrounding villages be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.
A few years ago, there was a debate in England over whether the Holocaust should be withdrawn from the school curriculum because it offended Muslims, some of whom believe it didn’t happen. Thankfully, it made no headway at the time. I am glad to say that many schoolkids are indeed taught about the Holocaust and have read helpful books like The Boy in Striped Pyjamas.
I would also recommend Always Remember Your Name (Manilla Press, 2019), a first-hand account of the terrible suffering experienced by children at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Italian sisters Andra and Tatiana Bucci, aged four and six respectively, were arrested with their Jewish mother and transported to the concentration camp where death and destruction became their ‘normal’ world. Miraculously, they survived, and lived to tell the horrible tale.
At first, no-one would believe them. So they kept quiet. But in recent days they have toured the world recounting the traumatic events of 1944/5.
Heartbreakingly, their beloved six-year-old cousin Sergio didn’t make it. He was selected for medical ‘experiments’ after which he was strung up on a wall to die like a piece of meat. As you might imagine, I shed many tears reading this little book (translated from Italian).
There’s a verse of Scripture that seems to fit this phenomenon of disbelief, except that it’s actually referring to imminent judgment on ancient Israel for their own rejection of God’s ways. He is, after all, a God of justice, who won’t apply standards to others that he doesn’t expect his own family to follow.
In Habakkuk 1:5, the Lord says: “I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”
Nevertheless, it is not because of Israel’s righteousness that he chose them (Deuteronomy 9:5), but on account of the wickedness of the nations whose land they were dispossessing and in line with his promise to Abraham.
It seems we are faced with a stark choice. Either we face up to the fact that we are all sinners, capable of heinous crimes if left to our own devices; or we live miserable lives blaming everyone else for our troubles which leaves us dangerously vulnerable to fascist, racist and antisemitic groups like the Nazis who would cheerfully complete the work Hitler began given half the chance.
A world full of violence is the outworking of people who follow their hearts – they do whatever they please – rather than God’s commands. But “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). If we are to stem the cycle of holocausts, we need to face up to the problem of sin in our own hearts, and deal with it through the blood of Jesus who, on a hill outside Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, became our Passover sacrifice as he was nailed to a cruel cross so that you and I could be freed from sin and self-destruction.
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