Subject: Christianity Israel & the Holocaust – Why Ignorance is Dangerous
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
During this past week, a very significant historical event came and went mostly unnoticed here in America, but was commemorated in Israel. It was 73 years ago this past Monday (May 16, 1943) that the single largest revolt took place by the Jews during World War II in a ghetto in Warsaw, Poland.
A group of 800 Jewish resistance fighters, armed with homemade grenades, knives and pistols, took on the Nazi SS troops in a desperate attempt to avoid the gas chambers of the Treblinka extermination camp. 13,000 Jews were murdered in the uprising between April 19th and May 16th, with 300 German soldiers killed. SS chief Heinrich Himmler had planned to liquidate the 300,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto in three days, but the resistance fighters held out for more than a month. Even after the uprising was defeated on May 16, 1943, Jews hiding out in the ghetto ruins continued attacking the German armed patrols. The Warsaw ghetto uprising was the largest and most important Jewish uprising in German-occupied Europe.
In the city of Jerusalem, Jews came out in the early morning on May 4th and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in silence as a distant siren sounded for two minutes. All traffic stopped. People got out of their vehicles and stood quietly along the roadsides. Television and radio broadcasts were suspended. When the siren ended, a procession of families came out of the crowds and laid wreaths at the base of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising monument. This yearly event signals the beginning of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day in Israel. The Hebrew word ‘yom’ means ‘day’, and the word ‘shoah’ means ‘devastation’. This Hebrew phrase ‘Day of Devastation’ is today’s word ‘Holocaust’. Yom Hashoah is Israel’s national day of remembrance of the Holocaust victims of World War II.
Over 6 million innocent Jews were slaughtered by the Germans. More than 1.5 million were children. On Yom Hashoah, the nation doesn’t simply remember the collective 6 million. There is a memorial project called “Every Person has a Name”, where every single person – one at a time – has their name recited on this day publically in an effort to restore their dignity and identity.
The reason for such a special day in Israel is that the Holocaust was uniquely Jewish. Even though the Nazis persecuted and murdered others, they targeted the Jews for extermination. The fanaticism of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich was unprecedented in world history. He was able to not only convince but energize one of the most intellectual cultures in the world to single out anyone with Jewish blood for extinction. But even worse, the world simply watched. No one came to the aid of the Jews. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “never again” will the Jewish people allow themselves to be led to the slaughter as the world watches.
How do we understand the Holocaust? How can an entire nation of civilized people do such horrific things to others? In our verse this week, the Bible gives us the answer. God makes it clear that all men’s’ hearts, not just Hitler’s, are desperately wicked. As I listen to today’s constant rhetoric about how the best solution to mankind’s problems lies in our own ability to somehow learn from our past mistakes and make a better world for ourselves, it becomes clear to me that we are ignorant to history. And ignorance is dangerous. Mankind, left to ourselves, is not capable of preventing another Holocaust because we all have sinful, self-centered hearts that we cannot fix. Anyone watching the global turmoil today must acknowledge this truth.
It is not only the historical fact of the Holocaust that we are ignoring. It was Hitler and Nazi Germany that became extinct, while Israel has not simply survived but has thrived. How has such a tiny insignificant nation the size of Rhode Island become such a global powerhouse? Because God’s plans, not Germany’s or anyone else’s, will succeed. And He chose the Jews as His conduit to salvation to mankind: “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness: I will bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory.” (Isaiah 46:12-13).
How does God describe this salvation? As giving a person a new heart: “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19). How does God perform this miracle in your heart, to transform you from desperately wicked to a new creation? Through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, to pay for your sins and offer you the free gift of a new heart. There is no other solution to mankind’s illness. As we in American continue to minimize Jesus Christ in our culture, we put ourselves in danger. Because ignorance is dangerous.