This week, in January, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is perhaps the one day in history that we can NEVER FORGET… if we are going to survive as a human race. We have heard the statement, “NEVER AGAIN” but there have been many such terrors in history even AFTER we thought the world, in shock from such a disaster of cruelty and dictatorship, would have learned. Yet, obviously, nations and people have not learned. Let’s look at some examples of history to name a few:
Killing of more than 11 million Jews in the Holocaust during 1940’s
More than a million Cambodians were killed in 1974-1979
Hutu and Tutsi War in African nations of Burundi and Rwanda, there were thousands killed
Christian Serbs in Bosnia during the 1990’s embarked on “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims
As a teacher, I was honored to take young high school students to Poland to visit Auschwitz Camp and each of them told me it was a life changing experience. My prayer is that that our young people today may be taught this history that they too may learn that sometimes it takes all ages to stand up against evil.
After taking the students to Poland, a few parents from my county in Florida and a Jewish man in Orlando, Florida financed the building of a Traveling Holocaust Display that was to be moved around to Middle Schools and High Schools in our county. This was a number of years ago, but I wondered if it was still being used to teach the Holocaust history today. Calling our county educational office, they said, “We have no idea where it is.” Was it stored in a closet somewhere and forgotten?
Sadly, this made me think that perhaps we should ask ourselves these questions about real life TODAY.
- WILL OUR YOUNG PEOPLE BE ABLE TO STAND UP TO DEATH IF THEY WERE FACED WITH SUCH DECISIONS AS THE RESISTANT YOUTH DID?
- WOULD I BE WILLING TO HIDE a persecuted people today…IF I KNEW THAT DOING SO CARRIED A DEATH SENTENCE?
During the Holocaust, Roman Catholic Nuns, the Quakers and private individuals were willing to hide Jewish families and many children regardless of their own peril. We have seen this portrayed in movies, such as Schindler’s List and The Diary of Anne Frank. Schindler’s name was added in Jerusalem to those non-Jews who helped save the Jews during WWII.
These were movies of real people, who faced the fear and did the right thing regardless of what they knew it would probably cost them. It is a hard to imagine what a person may have gone through to come to these hard decisions. We know that young people often made up the Resistance to the Nazis. They hid in the woods to sabotage the movement of troops and much more.
One such person, who is best known for his book, The Cost of Discipleship, finally knew that a decision had to be made. His name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian pastor.
Having been banned from preaching or teaching by the Nazis, Bonhoeffer was teaching pastors in an underground seminary, Finkenwalde, But after the seminary was discovered and closed, some of the other pastors became increasingly reluctant to speak out against Hitler, and moral opposition proved increasingly ineffective, so Bonhoeffer began to change his strategy. To this point he had been a pacifist, and he had tried to oppose the Nazis through religious action and moral persuasion.
Now he signed up with the German secret service (to serve as a double agent—while traveling to church conferences over Europe, he was supposed to be collecting information about the places he visited, but he was, instead, trying to help Jews escape Nazi oppression). Bonhoeffer also became a part of a plot to overthrow, and later to assassinate, Hitler.
As his tactics were changing, he had gone to America to become a guest lecturer. But he couldn’t shake a feeling of responsibility for his country. Within months of his arrival, he wrote theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”
Bonhoeffer, though privy to various plots on Hitler’s life, was never at the center of the plans. Eventually his resistance efforts (mainly his role in rescuing Jews) was discovered. On an April afternoon in 1943, two men arrived in a black Mercedes, put Bonhoeffer in the car, and drove him to Tegel prison.
Bonhoeffer spent two years in prison, corresponding with family and friends, pastoring fellow prisoners, and reflecting on the meaning of “Jesus Christ for today.” As the months progressed, be began outlining a new theology, penning enigmatic lines that had been inspired by his reflections on the nature of Christian action in history...
He said, “To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man—not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”
Eventually, Bonhoeffer was transferred from Tegel to Buchenwald and then to the extermination camp at Flossenbürg. On April 9, 1945, one month before Germany surrendered, he was hanged with six other resisters.
A decade later, a camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s hanging described the scene: “The prisoners … were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts, I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued in a few seconds. In the almost 50 years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” (Taken from Christianity Today.)
Short MOVIE CLIP from Schindler’s List by Spielberg
Schindler sees the child and makes his decision to rescue as many Jews as possible before they are sent to the death camps. (Difficult scenes) Turn up sound and click off of any pop-up commercial.