As UK Christians remember the Holocaust, marked on January 27 as the day in 1945 when Auschwitz was liberated, they have been reminded that it was spawned by godlessness and the rejection of faith.
Steven Jaffe, a member of the UK’s Jewish Board of Deputies, was addressing a largely Christian audience at a church in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
He said the exodus from Egypt was immediately followed by the battle with Amalek, who had no reason to attack Israel. There was no territorial dispute or history of conflict, for example. And they attacked the sick and the elderly – those who were most vulnerable. (Deuteronomy 25.17-18)
“The conflict with Amalek is not over,” he said. Amalek denied God and his power in the same way the Nazis did, and the latter mirrored their lack of mercy.
He recalled that Britain’s former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sachs, was once asked where God was during the Holocaust, to which he is said to have replied: “Where was man?”
My worry is that the growing influence of rank atheism in Britain and Europe will have a bearing on the future of anti-Semitism. The poisonous view that God does not exist naturally leads to godless behaviour and thought, even among those previously tutored in godly ways. The result is that even some who claim to have faith, and who perhaps stand in pulpits, start believing the lie that is proclaimed so often through almost every strand of media.
It is indeed frustrating that, as fast as we spread word about the horrors of the Holocaust, vowing that it should never be repeated, the vile infestation of anti-Semitism creeps into every crack and crevice of a broken society as the walls of a Judeo-Christian civilization come crashing down around us.
In polite Britain, hatred of Jews is generally not expressed openly, but often takes the form of a loathing of Israel, so that the very mention of the Jewish state is enough to raise the hackles, not only of the politically-aware man in the street, but of the semi-biblically aware man in the pew.
As Steven told the Bush Fire Church, such loathing cannot be explained in rational terms. But he was spot on target, I believe, in linking the phenomenon with a society that has thrown God out of the window. Pledges of never letting it happen again are not enough, in my opinion; without a recovery of faith in the God of Israel, there can be no guarantee that another holocaust won’t take place.
Even as I write, Iran is boasting of a nuclear deal that “has provided an historic opportunity to… face threats posed by the Zionist entity.” It is well to recall that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, collaborated with Hitler, thus setting the stage for today’s jihad against Israel. And yet, bizarrely, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have both publicly denied that the Holocaust ever took place.
Against such a dark background, however, there is plenty of encouragement. The Sheffield gathering heard much about the heroic acts of so-called ‘righteous Gentiles’ like Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from Czechoslovakia in 1938. Generations of people – almost 7,000 of some of the world’s greatest doctors, lawyers, teachers and inventors – owe their lives to the act of one man’s efforts to help Jewish children escape the Nazis.
And Steven Jaffe himself, through the launch last year in the neighbouring city of Leeds of the Shalom Declaration, committing to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and fight against anti-Semitism, is sending out a clear message of Christian support for Britain’s Jewish community. “There isn’t a corner of the British Isles that the Shalom Declaration has not been signed,” he said.
Making nonsense of campaigns to boycott Israel, he pointed out that one in six of the drugs and medicine dispensed through Britain’s famous health service have either been manufactured or developed in Israel.
And on the faith front, we were told that “there are more Jews learning the Torah today in Israel that at any time in our history”.
All of which is preparing them well for the great event we are perhaps soon to witness when Jesus reveals himself on a grand scale to his brothers in the flesh.
Though many Jews quite understandably have a problem with this, especially with the Holocaust in mind, the key is forgiveness.
British television viewers were treated to a remarkable Channel 4 documentary, The girl who forgave the Nazis, recounting the story of how Hungarian Jew Eva Kor, now 81, a former inmate of Auschwitz, has publicly forgiven 94-year-old Oskar Groenig, the death camp’s former accountant, who was recently sentenced to four years in jail for his part in the Nazi’s evil scheme.
Eva and her twin sister Miriam were experimented on by the infamous Dr Josef Mengele, but survived the camp, though Miriam died in 1993 possibly through the effects of the experiments. Eva said: “It’s time to forgive, but not forget… I believe that forgiveness is such a powerful thing... and I want everybody to help me sow these seeds of peace throughout the world.”
This takes amazing courage. But it’s worth remembering that Jesus, our Messiah, made the first move when he prayed, as he died in agony on a cross in Jerusalem: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23.34)
When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he had already long since forgiven them for acting treacherously against him.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…” (Psalm 103.2-3)
“Seek the Lord while he may be found…for he will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55.6-7)
Charles Gardner is author of Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com