Editor’s Note: As we mark another Holocaust Memorial Day, we thought it would be appropriate to republish this article on Lessons to Learn from the Jewish Holocaust. Today’s post was originally published on January 27, 2016.
The Holocaust has been described as the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and mass murder of European Jews and other groups carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies between 1933 and 1945. In fact the term Holocaust referred to as the Shoah, comes from a religious term referring to sacrifices totally burned on the altar and offered to God.
Many researchers and historians have spent lifetimes attempting to make sense of the Holocaust, and we believe the search for answers will continue to not only remember and honor the victims but through trying to comprehend how a civilized and most educated culture could lose all sense of humanity.
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor said that:
The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment—or as the Nazis liked to say, “of blood and soil.” I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other of Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.
The truth is Jews have suffered greatly throughout the ages and many others have also been victims of indescribable brutality. Winston Churchill described the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the Final Solution as probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world.
Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt points out two reasons why the German program of genocide remains in a class by itself as an example of evil:
It was the only time in recorded history that a state tried to destroy an entire people, regardless of an individual’s age, sex, location, profession, or belief. And it is the only instance in which the perpetrators conducted this genocide for no ostensible material, territorial, or political gain.
So what does the Jewish Holocaust teach us? In his book, When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons we must Learn from Nazi Germany, Dr. Erwin Lutzer warns that if we think there is nothing to learn from it the Holocaust or Nazi Germany, we should think again:
When truth is rejected in the public sphere, the state will either turn to some semblance of natural law or more ominously to lies. Secular values will be imposed on society, and it will be done in the name of “freedom and tolerance.
First of all, it has been said that this is an age of tolerance–tolerance for everything except Christianity. The so-called social planners who are reshaping Western society according to purely humanistic values agree with Hitler that God and religion must be removed from all spheres of life. Religion most notably Christianity must be ousted from government, law, education, and the workplace.
At this moment we can see that most politicians have turned away from God as the source of salvation, life, and liberty. We are calling evil good and good evil, lawlessness, immorality, and evil are encouraged in society, there is injustice, and the law has been perverted. Therefore, as families, churches and other Christian organizations, we should be prepared to defend the truth, justice, and righteousness when our turn comes to stand.
Secondly, it matters to learn from it because the Jewish Holocaust happened to people like us, not just because the Jews are perfect people. Not at all, we are all fallen human beings who need the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ but the Lord promised Abraham that through him all nations and families of the earth would be blessed.
The whole world has enjoyed many blessings through the Jewish people. But the greatest blessing is the gift of salvation through God’s Son Jesus Christ. There will be other great blessings that are yet to be fulfilled when Jesus Christ will be King over the all the earth and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:7).
All nations of the earth will be blessed under the reign of Israel’s Jewish Messiah from Jerusalem. It is an undeniable fact that the destiny of every human being alive today and every nation on this earth is linked to the destiny of this tiny nation.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12: 3-4 KJV).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer prophetically warns us:
Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah of the Israelite-Jewish people, and for that reason, the line of our forefathers goes back beyond the appearance of Jesus Christ to the people of Israel. Western history is, by God’s will, indissolubly linked with the people of Israel, not only genetically but also in a genuine uninterrupted encounter. The Jew keeps open the question of Christ. He is the sign of the free mercy-choice and of repudiating wrath of God Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off (Romans 11:22). That is why an expulsion of the Jews from the West must necessarily bring with it the expulsion of Christ. For Jesus Christ was a Jew.
Thirdly, one of the most important lessons history teaches is never to dismiss anything as impossible. Perhaps the most terrible sin of all is not that those who murdered the Jews said what they planned to do, but that the world didn’t listen. Maybe we’ve got to learn to hear even the things we don’t want to hear.
In his book, The Oak and The Calf, Alexander Solzhenitsyn who sustained long years of imprisonment and exile in Russia wrote that:
I may say that my whole life has trained me to expect the worst much more often than not, I am always readier, more willing to believe, the worst. In the camp I took to heart the Russian proverb: “Don’t let good luck fool you or bad luck frighten you.” I have learned to live by this rule and I hope never to depart from it.
May be we should learn to live by that rule as well and respond to evil before it is too late.
Finally, the fourth lesson is that many people are saying that that the Holocaust never happened and there appears to be a return of anti-Semitism in Europe, United States, and other nations. The Jewish people once again are quickly becoming the scapegoats of humanity. Why the hatred, yet there is overwhelming evidence of what really happened? In a speech delivered in 1985, Richard Von Weizsaecker the President of Germany made this thought-provoking statement:
The Jewish nation remembers and will always remember. We seek reconciliation. Precisely for this reason we must understand that there can be no reconciliation without remembrance. The experience of million fold death is part of the very being of every Jew in the world, not only because people cannot forget such atrocities, but also because remembrance is part of the Jewish faith.
According to the Holy Scriptures particularly the Torah remembrance is part of the Jewish faith. Over and over again, as the nation of Israel prepared to cross the river Jordan and enter the Promised Land, Moses solemnly charged them to remember. They were to remember where they came from and how God delivered them:
And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:15). There were to remember how they had come: And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not (Deut.8:2).
The Lord warned them that even in prosperity and success they were not to forget the Lord who brought them out of Egypt. But this lesson wasn’t learned, and this attitude of independence, pride and ingratitude were repeated.
You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: (Deut. 7:18) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven (Exodus 17:14).
The history of Israel proves that the sin of forgetfulness is a deadly sin, both to an individual and to nations. We should be deeply disturbed by how quickly many people have forgotten what happened. It’s even appalling and shocking that when you ask what people know about this dark period in human history, many are completely ignorant. George Orwell is quoted to have said,
Whoever controls the image and information of the past determines what and how future generations will think; whoever controls the information and images of the present determines how those same people will view the past.
Yet history that’s being ignored is very useful because it is the only way we can learn from the past which is gone but our future which is still a mystery. That is one of the lessons history teaches. Remembering the past always helps us to understand the present. And to make the most of the present, we’ve got to try to use the knowledge learned from the past to create a better future.
That is why the Bible speaks the language of remembering. God kept on reminding the Jews to remember what happened. What their ancestors taught them so that they could teach it to their children and eventually to the whole world.
The Bible tells us “The human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17: 9) Here again, Dr.Erwin Lutzer reminds us that:
Evil held in check by God often erupts when the conditions are right. When the restraints are gone, when people are desperate, and when power is up for grabs, the human heart is laid bare for all to see. We are naive if we think Nazi Germany cannot happen again. In fact the Bible predicts that it will…
Do we think the anti-Semites of yesterday are completely different human beings to the ones of today? Something to think about!