One of the most inhumane events in human history is the Holocaust. Listen to this lesson for Dr. Dean’s explanation about why it is important for all to learn about this time of depravity. Hear him tell what he learned during the time he spent attending a seminar at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel. Find out what is found there and how their web site will be useful for children to learn about this tragic chapter in human history. He discusses definitions of the Holocaust and how it refers only to Jews and not others who were murdered by Hitler during World War II. Begin to ponder questions about how such evil can exist under the sovereign rule of God and about people who stepped in to rescue as many Jews as possible.
You can access the Yad Vashem website here.
Note that the video for this class is mislabeled as 1 Samuel Lesson #51.
The Holocaust Anti-Semitism and Us
May 17, 2016
“Our Father, we are so very grateful that we can come together as a body of believers to encourage one another by our presence to focus upon You, to focus upon Your Word, to be reminded of the eternal principles and truths of Your Word that You have revealed to us. We recognize that Your Word is not only the absolute and final authority, but it is a book that relates to history, relates to science, and relates to every area of life. It gives us a framework to be able to understand reality since You are the God who created the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them, You have defined the very nature of reality.
On that basis we can come to understand truth, not as something that is culturally determined, but is something that is eternal and absolute. It is super-cultural and super-historical because it is grounded in Your holy character. Father, we pray that as we study these things tonight that You would help us to understand them that we might be challenged to study some things on our own, and that it might develop in us a desire to be a little more aware of things that are going on in the world around us. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
As most of you know I have been gone the last couple of weeks. Both Pam and I received a scholarship to be part of an intensive special educational seminar that takes place in Yad Vashem, which is Israel’s Holocaust memorial. When we go to Israel we always take time to go to Yad Vashem because it is important and significant. I have gone there every time I have gone to Israel. This was my eighth trip to Yad Vashem. There is always more to learn. It is always interesting.
This was very different. This was eight full days of intensive instruction, although we did take a little time off, a couple of afternoons we went to different sites in Jerusalem. On the middle Saturday we took a day trip and went to the Sea of Galilee area. We went to the ancient boat site, which is a museum where they discovered a first-century fishing boat that had been embedded in the bottom of the Sea of Galilee. When they had a serious drought about 20 years ago it was discovered. It is a remarkable story.
We went to a few other sites. A new one we went to that will be a part of the future trips is the sight of Magdala, as in Magdalene, Mary of Magdala. This is a new site up in that area that has been developed. It is very interesting to go there and to see what is taking place there.
Often people ask: Is it safe over there?
A lady on this trip, who had been in Israel in October, 2015, during the height of the stabbings, said it was like a ghost town. You would go to the mall or other places, but there were very few people. The Israelis did not want to be out in crowds or in certain locations, but it was not that way at all this time. In fact, we were there during three of the most important days on Israel’s calendar:
- The ceremony of Remembrance for the Holocaust, Yom HaShoah. In Hebrew the Holocaust is referred to as the Shoah, rather than the Holocaust. The term Holocaust is from a Greek word that refers to a burnt offering. There is a lot of debate over whether or not that is a proper term to use to describe this catastrophe.
That was a special time and we were in a special location for that ceremony. I will talk about that a little later.
- A week following there is Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. It is really interesting how those are set-up. I wish we had ours set up this way. Memorial Day was just a week ago, last Tuesday night, remember their day begins at sundown, from Tuesday sundown to Wednesday sundown we had Memorial Day. When Memorial Day begins everything is shut down. All Jewish entertainment, restaurants, and movie theaters are shut down. The nation goes into mourning and remembrance for its national heroes who have died for their freedom.
- At the end of that period comes Wednesday night, as you begin to approach sundown, people begin to come out. They are in the streets. They are getting ready for a nationwide street party. I mean that in the fullest sense of the word. As soon as it is sundown the street bands start up, the dancing in the streets, the celebration. Everybody comes out of their houses. You have fireworks. They are celebrating Independence Day.
Note the juxtaposition:
They mourn those who purchased their freedom.
At the end of that period of mourning they celebrate the freedom that was purchased.
Is that not a great juxtaposition?
They celebrated! We had a difficult time getting to sleep that night. It was probably two in the morning, because there were at least two bands and street parties outside the wall of Jerusalem where we were staying, and the music was incredibly loud. They were partying. The whole nation does it. It is just a tremendous thing to witness. That was very interesting.
What I want to do tonight, and it is probably going to take me more than one night to do it. It is an important topic and I want to think it through a bit. I want to reflect upon what we did last week. I want to think about the whole topic of The Holocaust, Anti-Semitism, and Us.
This is basically the focus of this seminar that we attended. There were twenty-eight Christian leaders involved. They were from various different denominations: some Baptist, some charismatic, some Pentecostal, Episcopal, some Africans, a Fiji Islander, five or six Canadians, and I think the rest of them were from the United States. There was one German, two Finns. I know more Finns from this trip than I have known in my whole life combined.
It was interesting to just to get to know people. The ones from Africa were from Zambia and Ghana. The guy from Ghana was Kofi something who at one point was an assistant to Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary General. The people were very interesting, intelligent, and for the most part had a good education. There were some young people there, 21–24 years old and 30 years old. That is good to reach that next generation with this information. They need to understand this.
We are living in an era today when WWII and the Holocaust are moving from a contemporary event to a historical event. As we are going through that transition we are seeing more and more people revise the history of WWII, why we fought and what we did. There is debate as to whether or not we should have used the atomic bomb. There is revisionism going on about the Holocaust. That is one of the purposes for these educational seminars.
At Yad Vashem there is a:
- Christian desk, hosted by the “Christian Friends of Yad Vashem.”
- French desk.
- Hispanic desk.
- African desk.
- European desk.
Their focus in all of these different areas is to provide education to these different parts of the world so that there is an understanding of the seriousness of what happened in the Holocaust, have the evidence before them, as to what took place historically, but also to deal with the potential of a future return to something like that.
We see various genocides that are taking place today. We see these, especially the tremendous persecution of Christians in Syria and other areas of Islamic countries. Very little is said by Christians in the West for a lot of reasons. I am not going to go there now. It takes us into another area of discussion. But we need to think this through as Christians. We need to think through the Holocaust and our response to the Holocaust as conservative, pro-Israel, Zionist, Bible-believing Christians.
Very little has been written on this. A book that came out about 10 years ago called Hitler’s Cross, written by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, a Dallas Seminary graduate who is the pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. It was recently updated and is available. That is one book, but there are very few responses written by Protestants. There are not that many written by Christians.
Others books, written by liberal Christians, have a lot of the same basic problems that various skeptics do when it comes to explaining evil. It is really easy to understand and explain all this if you accept the reality of what the Bible teaches under the concept of total depravity. That mankind, since the fall of Adam, is inherently evil. But if you are of a liberal mindset, and you do not believe that man is basically evil, but you believe that man is basically good, then you are going to have problems.
In Judaism this has been a historic problem, trying to understand the Holocaust, because they do not have a doctrine of total depravity like Christianity does. They do not have a doctrine of inherent sin. The Holocaust, one of the things is that in certain segments of Judaism, caused them to go back and reflect again upon the nature of man. Some have gone so far as to reflect upon the fact that man is therefore basically evil, but that gets us into other areas.
In the Old Testament we have a verse in Jeremiah 29:11 where God is speaking. He says, “For I know the plans that I have for you.”
Yahweh is speaking about Israel. Jeremiah is sometimes called the weeping prophet. He is the prophet who is warning Israel that Nebuchadnezzar is coming toward Jerusalem and the temple. God is going to take His people into captivity in fulfillment of what God had said in His contract or covenant with Moses. That if you disobey Him, get into idolatry and continue to reject Him then He would take them out of the land.
This is a warning, but it is a warning of hope. The warning is that in spite of what is about to take place that:
- the nation will be invaded for the third time by Nebuchadnezzar.
- untold thousands of people will be killed.
- the people will be tortured by the Babylonians.
- there will be an incredible loss of life and property.
- there will be incredible suffering.
- many of them and their children will be taken away as slaves in captivity to Babylon.
- nevertheless, in Yahweh’s long term plan there is hope.
Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ ”
If you are reading this as a Jewish person, and you look at this in the light of the Holocaust, then this is something that is difficult to understand.
How can God allow six million Jews, a million of which are children, how can He allow them to be so brutally murdered?
How can that take place if God is a good, just, and righteous God?
That is the core issue in understanding the Holocaust. If you are involved in any kind of friendship or relationship with Jewish people this is going to come up. They will perhaps ask you how you explain that. This is, for a number of people, a major problem in even believing that there is a God anymore.
I want to start by reviewing what we did, but first I want to address three questions:
- Why is it important for us, as human beings, to study the Holocaust?
- Why is it that we should continue to remember this?
- Why is this something that should be part of curricula in schools, whether they are private, public schools, universities?
- Why is it important that we as human beings study the Holocaust?
- Why is it important for us, as Christians, to study and know about the Holocaust?
- The Holocaust is not a biblical topic, but it is important to understand that you have to apply truth. You have to understand the truth of God’s Word.
- Why is it important for me as your pastor, as a Christian leader, to take the time to go to Israel, to take the time to learn about the Holocaust, to study about the Holocaust, and to be gone for two weeks?
- Why is this significant?
- Why is this important?
I want to talk about the answers to these questions. In terms of the first question: Why is it important for us, as human beings, to study the Holocaust?
- The Holocaust represents the absolute worse, the greatest depravity, and the worst of humanity in human history. You have one group of human beings who devise and work out a conscientious plan to completely destroy and eradicate from the face of the earth a specific race of people for no other reason than that they are members of that particular race.
- By looking at the Holocaust we can come to a realistic view of what human beings are capable of, and we can understand what they are capable of both in terms of the worst that humanity has to offer and the best that humanity has to offer.
- Often when we think of the Holocaust we think of the worst, but when you study the righteous among the Gentiles, and you study the number of people who were willing to, and in some cases did, lose their lives, their property, their families, and were put into concentration camps themselves, because of their willingness to sacrifice their lives to save the Jews, simply because they were Jews, then you understand the best of humanity. In many cases these people did it because they were motivated by their Christian beliefs, but in a lot of cases they were not Christian.
There is an interesting application there. As we look at this we see human beings rising to the top level of behavior, but not on the basis of religious belief, but simply on the basis of their own human viewpoint integrity. Yet, we need to think about that as believers:
Would we function in the same way because of our spiritual life and because of our understanding of Scripture?
As we live in the world today where much of western civilization wants to reject the notions of moral absolutes, such as absolute moral good and absolute moral evil, then how can we explain that?
We have to understand this from the viewpoint of “just” humanity. One of the things that really irritated the liberal left in this country was after September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush identified the perpetrators as evil doers.
If you are coming at life from the framework of Darwinian evolution, you have no basis for thinking about absolute good and absolute evil. It is not part of something that is part of your mental skill set. You do not have a right to those terms. You reject them.
When someone starts talking about absolute evil, that presupposes to some level the truth of the Bible, which is completely antithetical to, and antagonistic to, a Darwinian worldview. Darwinism has worked itself out into what we see in situational ethics and moral relativism today, which is the logical result of the starting point of Darwinism.
The Holocaust has to force us in terms of ultimate ethical absolutes. By understanding the Holocaust also, we can understand what can happen in history. It should alert us to the fact that this has happened in the past. It can happen in the future. It may not be a targeted complete genocide of the Jewish people. I think that will come.
In our understanding of biblical prophecy there will be the rise of the anti-Christ. His agenda is to destroy the Jewish people. This is what is prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. If you go to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, various passages in Zechariah and in Daniel, this is the endgame that is predicted. Not just in terms of New Testament belief, but it is really developed within the Old Testament Prophets and Scriptures.
In terms of the second question: Why is it important for us, as Christians, to study and know about the Holocaust?
As Christians it brings us face-to-face with a couple of realities that most of us really are not comfortable with and do not like to think about:
- Historic Christian anti-Semitism and the role and responsibility of Christianity in general played in the backdrop, at least the laying of the historic foundation for Nazi anti-Semitism, is crucial. If it were not for 1,600–1,700 years of the development of Christian anti-Semitism there never would have been the development of Nazi anti-Semitism.
We may not be comfortable with that. One of the reasons that I think we are not comfortable with that is that we come from a theological tradition going back almost to the Reformation. In tracing our theological roots back through the influence of British Restorationism that developed in the 1600s among the Puritans, that there has been primarily in our tradition, recognition that God still has a covenant with the Jewish people. He has not rejected them. We have not held in our tradition to any form of a Replacement Theology.
Therefore, in our theological tradition there is recognition of God’s plan and purpose for the Jewish people. That He has not turned His back on the Jewish people, as Paul says in Romans 11. We need to come to grips with the fact that the history of Christianity is a history since the third century of Replacement Theology and the desire to completely remove the Jews from history.
- We must understand that history is God’s story. It is “His Story.” This is the outworking of God’s plan and purposes in human history. By understanding the Scriptures it gives us a framework for understanding and interpreting what goes on within history, being able to explain both the good things that happen, as well as the horrific things that happen. The framework of Scripture gives us the ability to properly understand and to deal with things of this kind of nature when you have real evil in the world.
- We must recognize that something like the Holocaust is not just something in the past, but it is going to be repeated in the future in different forms.
It may happen in our lifetime. It may happen to us. There may be an agenda that comes that seeks to destroy Christianity, to persecute Christianity. We are already seeing foreshadowings of this. That if you are a biblical Christian, you hold to convictions that the Bible defines as reality, then that means that you are taking certain stands against homosexuality, against transgenderism, against a number of these things that right now are at the center of the culture wars.
There are many people in this country that are already saying that Christians have to quit believing this, that we cannot allow this anymore. That kind of language will inevitably lead to a persecution of Christians for their beliefs.
How are we going to handle that?
Morally and ethically what are you going to do if somebody comes to your door that has lost everything and they need help, and by helping them you are going to put a target on your back and the government will come after you as well?
How are you going to train your children to handle this kind of overt persecution?
How are they going to handle it when they go to work at some major corporation and have a good job with a good salary, and yet they are told that they have to either passively or actively approve of those around them who are living a lifestyle that is in direct contradiction to the Word of God?
We all know that we live and work with people that are sinners, but there is a difference between saying that I can live with you because you are a sinner and you have these various sins in your life. I am not making a special issue out of your sexual orientation or anything like that. That is called “true tolerance.”
But that is not what the agenda of the LGBT crowd is. They want approval, approbation. They want us to completely remove any kind of negative judgment on their lifestyle from the Scriptures. We have to handle that.
- As Christians we can learn a lot from the best that humanity has shown in terms of enduring the worst of history?
Yet, in many cases, those who helped the Jews were not Christians. Yet as Christians we should live above and beyond that. If they could perform at that level of integrity and virtue and courage on the basis of human viewpoint truth and the power of the sin nature—how are we going to behave?
- Are we going to have courage, a virtue, and an integrity that goes beyond that because we have a greater understanding of truth and we have the power of the Holy Spirit?
Then when we understand how the Jews themselves, within the camps, faced the horrors that they faced. They did not all do it well, just as not all of us will handle it well, but when you look at what happened in the camps, how they went to extra efforts to assert the fact that they were civilized human beings.
That the Jews put together orchestras, and on any given day your chief musician may be taken and put on a train and sent to Auschwitz. But they did not quit. They put on dramas, plays, and concerts again and again and again. The art, the literature, the music that came out of the camps is a testimony to the fact that they refused to become the beasts that the Nazis said they were.
- Are we able as Christians to live at such a high level of civilization and humanity when we have something more? That is a powerful question.
- Lastly, understanding the examples of these “righteous among the Gentiles,” who rescued and hid and delivered and gave themselves to the survival of thousands of Jews during the war, sets an example for us as to how we should behave in terms of loving our neighbor as our self. There is not a qualification on that, as to whether they are a believer or unbeliever, are we going to be like the good Samaritan and do whatever it takes in order to help others?
3. Why is it important for me, as a pastor and your pastor and a Christian leader, to take time to do this?
I think I have answered that in what I have said in the first two questions and points. I think it is important for pastors to be able to take the Word of God and help show people how it helps us think through every single issue in life, the difficult issues, the hard issues that relate to how to face and handle real substantive evil. How that does not cause us to lose our faith, but it causes us to have a stronger faith.
Someone once said that often in the camps people, orthodox Jews, religious Jews, and observant Jews, lost their faith when they saw the evil that was being perpetrated in the camps. But other Jews within the camp said how could that be? It intensified my faith. It made me realize that every breath that I took, every day when I woke-up it was a miracle of God that enabled me to live another day. That is a focal point.
As a pastor, as a Christian leader, we need to recognize that what has happened in the past can happen in the future. We have to understand as Christians:
- How we use the Scripture to explain and to understand situations like this.
- How we, if we were to face that as the victims, as the objects of this kind of persecution, how the Word of God would be significant to us.
That is the basic introduction. The next thing that I want to do is to answer a couple of questions. I have got four questions that I have outlined here. It is going to take well into the next class to answer them.
- What is Yad Vashem?
- That is a Hebrew phrase.
- What does that mean?
- Why is this place important?
- To understand some basics about the Holocaust:
- What is the Holocaust?
- What does the Holocaust mean?
- How is the Holocaust defined?
- Are we having a Holocaust today?
- Is there a Holocaust in Israel because Israel is attacking those poor Hamas Arabs in Gaza?
The word “Holocaust” is used to apply to that. We talk about a Holocaust that took place in Darfur. The term is used to apply to other things.
- Is that legitimate?
- What is the Holocaust?
- What are the basics about the Holocaust?
- I want to review some of the basic topics that we covered in the seminar.
- We need to make sense of this biblically.
- How do we explain what happened biblically?
- How do we understand it from a biblical framework?
- What is Yad Vashem?
The name Yad Vashem was chosen for the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem because of its use in Isaiah 56:5.
The first translation is from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Scripture:
Isaiah 56:5, “Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
Literally it is “I will give them a hand and a name.” Yad is the Hebrew word for “hand.” Shem is the word for “name.” The Va is the conjunction “and.” Yad Vashem literally means “a hand and a name,” but it is an idiom. The NKJV translates it “an everlasting name.”
The New English Translation, the NET Bible, captures it idiomatically:
Isaiah 56:5, “I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument that will be better than sons and daughters. I will set up a permanent monument for them that will remain.”
That is what Yad Vashem means, a permanent monument or a memorial. That name was taken to reflect this. Yad Vashem is more than just a museum. It is also a research library. Israel has a tremendous resource there where you can go and look up information about a relative you may have had who perished or disappeared during the Holocaust. You can find out information about family members and relations, or a lot of other information about the Holocaust, the camps, or “the righteous among the Gentiles.” It is an ever-growing compilation of information.
Israel also has the Institute for Holocaust Studies, of which this was a part, where they offer numerous week and two-week-long intensive courses on studying the Holocaust and issues related to the Holocaust. Yad Vashem is there to remind the world that they “Not Forget” what happened in the Holocaust. That this is “Not Forgotten.” This is not something that is just revised away so that people do not remember it and forget it and then it happens again.
Yad Vashem is also a website. If you are a parent or grandparent I encourage you to go to their website. If you are a teacher, substitute teacher, go to their website. They have all kinds of curricular there for teaching about the Holocaust. They have materials and resources there for teaching children as young as four and five years of age.
Unfortunately, I think that many of us, when we think about the Holocaust, we immediately think of one of the images I had in the opening slide, of people who look like skeletons at death’s door who are being murdered. We think that that is not a topic for four or five year olds. If you are Jewish, it is. If you are a Christian, it better should be. You need to understand this.
I was four to five years of age when I first heard about the Holocaust. My dad had been transferred and put on loan to the TransCanada Pipeline Company. We were living in Toronto for a couple of years. We had a mother and daughter whose name was Jacobi. They were our housekeepers. Most of you know that my mother had polio and was in a wheelchair. We always had to have help in the house.
The Jacobi family, the mother, two sons and two daughters, had run an underground operation in Holland during WWII. Part of what they were involved with was hiding and protecting Jews. When my mother would tell me about the Holocaust at age 4–5 years old that was my earliest memory of learning about the Holocaust.
There are all kinds of material that is age appropriate for beginning to teach kids about the Holocaust. The Yad Vashem website is a great place to go for it. There are great stories about survivors, how they survived, how they were rescued, and “the righteous among the Gentiles”.
In fact, today Pam was substituting in a school here in Spring Branch. She took the kids to the library. The librarian was talking to the kids about what are your favorite things to read? Then the librarian said that one of her favorite things to read is stories about Holocaust survivors. These were second or third graders. It is not too early.
I think a lot of adults think that it is too early to teach kids a lot of things in life. I think if you have not started teaching or laying the foundation for a lot of things like manners, discipline, reading, and other things by the time they are four or five it is too late! Some of these things have already been set in concrete and that is a problem. We need to teach. That is the purpose of Yad Vashem. We also have the Houston Holocaust Museum here. If you have never been there I encourage you to do that.
Basics about the Holocaust:
Here is a quote from a Holocaust scholar by the name of Seymour Cain. He wrote this in an article called “The Questions and the Answers after Auschwitz” in 1971:
“Auschwitz, or ‘the Holocaust,’ looms as the stumbling block of contemporary Jewish theology. Whatever may be the case with Christian theologians, for whom it seems to play no significant generative or transformative role, the Jewish religious thinker is forced to confront full-face that horror, the uttermost evil in Jewish history.”
If you are trying to explain your faith in God to somebody who is Jewish, this will come up every time. They have been learning about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism since they were old enough to understand anything.
Let’s define the Holocaust:
I looked at the Encyclopedia Judaica, 2007:
“ ‘Holocaust’ is the term used for the systematic state-sponsored murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.”
That is really the basic definition as we will see. A lot of people confuse the Holocaust with the others who were victims of Nazi brutality. The Holocaust, as we will see in a couple of more quotes, is specifically related to the systematic murder of six million Jews during WWII.
The article in Encyclopedia Judaica goes on to say:
“Some historians and writers restrict the use of the term to the murder of the Jews …”
From what we were taught, and what you will see in these other definitions, that is the standard definition of the Holocaust. It is for Jews only. But there are others that use the term more widely to include those civilians who were victimized by Nazi Germany: trade unionists, political opponents of the regime, Jehovah Witnesses, and homosexuals, who were persecuted, but not systematically murdered. That is the key concept in the Holocaust. It is the organized, systematic murder of the Jewish people simply because they were Jewish.
The Imperial War Museum in London in the United Kingdom defines it this way:
“ ‘The Holocaust’ is the term used to describe the systematic and wholesale slaughter of the Jews of Europe by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Second World War. Two-thirds of European Jewry perished between 1939 and 1945.”
Think of that: “Two-thirds of European Jewry.”
“On coming to power in 1933 …” This is when it began.
- We have to understand what it was. It was the systematic murder of Jewish people because they were Jewish.
- When did it take place? It took place between 1933 and 1945.
“On coming to power in 1933 the Nazis began to actively persecute the Jews of Germany with the introduction of discriminatory legislation, which was accompanied by vicious anti-Semitic propaganda. With the outbreak of the Second World War (September 1, 1939), the process escalated. Nazi conquests meant that every Jew in occupied Europe was under the threat of death.”
The Jews knew there was not going to be an option to live. They were targeted for death no matter what. It did not matter. As long as one of your four grandparents was Jewish you were going to die. It did not matter if your family had converted to Christianity 200 years ago. If one of your four grandparents was Jewish, you were Jewish.
It did not matter if you had been a World War I hero. It did not matter if you were the head of a corporation that was vital to the military interest of the nation. You were going to die. Nothing would get you out of death. You could not pay it off. You could not buy your way out of it. You could not work your way out of it. You were going to die simply because you were Jewish.
“Other groups besides the Jews fell victim to Nazi racial policies. Poles, Slavs, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and Sinti (gypsies), were all murdered in vast numbers. And Hitler’s political opponents, communists, and trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals were also brutally done to death in Nazi concentration camps.”
But that is not the Holocaust.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC says:
“The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. ‘Holocaust’ is a word of Greek origin meaning ‘sacrifice by fire’ (a burnt offering). The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed the Germans were ‘racially superior’ and that the Jews, deemed ‘inferior,’ ”
The term that they used was “Jews were of a different race.”
You have to understand how the word “race” is used there. If you believe in polygenesis, the multiple points of origin for the human race according to Darwinian evolution, that only makes sense. Prior to WWII, prior to the Holocaust, the theory of evolution taught that there were many different origins of human beings. You had Peking Man, Zinjanthropus in Africa, different ones in Europe and Russia, wherever, but there were different origins.
These humanoids came together and eventually developed into Homo sapiens, but because they do not have a common origin, these are not all of the same race. These are all humanoid, but not of the same race. Some were superior, Cro-Magnon was superior to others. Europeans and Aryans were superior to others who developed in a different evolutionary chain.
That was rejected after WWII, not because they discovered something scientifically to change their view, but they did not like the philosophical implications of it, because the philosophical implication of it is that some races, whether it is African or Indian or Asian, may be superior, some may be inferior to others. That was the argument that was used to attack the Jews, as they were an inferior race, they were not truly human. Only Aryans were truly human.
Yad Vashem definition:
“The Holocaust was unprecedented genocide, total and systematic, perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, with the aim of annihilating the Jewish people.”
That was its stated goal, not just killing all the Jews in Europe or in Eastern Europe, but their stated goal was to eradicate every person in the world that had Jewish blood.
We have to understand that:
“While there were other victims of Nazi atrocities and violence, the term ‘Holocaust’ is to be restricted to the unique attempt to totally eradicate all Jews worldwide.”
When we look at defining the Holocaust, it is the systematic attempt of annihilation of all of the Jews. It consists of the murder of almost six million Jews in Europe, but not just in Europe. It also involved North Africa. It was not just focusing on European Jewry. As such, there were no other victims of the Holocaust other than Jews. There were other victims of Nazi violence, but no other victims of the Holocaust.
When we look at one of the classic books on the study of the Holocaust by Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, Revised Edition, he says that there are four basic elements that make the Holocaust distinct and unprecedented:
In terms of totality:
The Holocaust targeted every single Jew as defined by the Nazis, meaning:
- It would include Christian converts.
- It would include those who had assimilated completely and thought of themselves only as Germans or Austrians.
- It would have targeted anybody who had at least one grandparent that was Jewish.
- It was aimed at Jews as a whole.
- The target was to eradicate all 18 million Jews that were alive in the 1930s.
In terms of universality:
It was looking at all Jews everywhere. In a 1941 meeting between Hitler and the Mufti of Jerusalem the protocol of the meeting included the following statement:
“When we win the war we will ask all the countries of the world to treat the Jews as we treat them here.”
That was a clear statement that Hitler made of their intent to eradicate all Jews of the world.
In terms of ideology:
This was a self-conscious ideology. Most genocide has pragmatic issues. They want the land. For example:
- When the Turks initiated genocide against the Armenians they wanted the land.
- In other cases where there have been genocides they want oil or water, but they have some sort of rationalization that covers basically pragmatic concerns.
- But in the Holocaust they just wanted to kill the Jews because they were Jewish. Period.
It was their ideology. They blamed the Jews for everything. Anything that was wrong in the world.
- Capitalism is the fault of the Jews.
- Socialism is the fault of the Jews.
- Communism is the fault of the Jews.
- Poverty is the fault of the Jews.
- Crime is the fault of the Jews.
- Everything was the fault of the Jews.
Today it is: We would have peace in the world if it were not for Israel.
All of the things that Jews were accused of prior to WWII, Israel is now being accused of. That is why being anti-Israel is the new anti-Semitism. There are people I have talked to, good Christians, some people you know, who do not think that Israel has an important place in God’s plan, because they are not Christian. They have not accepted Jesus as Messiah. Until that happens they have no role.
But the Abrahamic Covenant is still solid. It is still absolute truth. God will bless those who bless Israel. Did God bless those who blessed Israel when Israel was a reprobate in the Old Testament?
Of course He did. God cursed those who cursed Israel. That is why God lowered the boom on the Assyrians. He used them to discipline the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and then He wiped them out. He used the Chaldeans to discipline Israel and then He wiped them out. Habakkuk is part of that. We have to understand that these are the four things that make the Holocaust unique.
In terms of racism:
The Nazis had three genocides in mind:
- One had to do with the Jews, but that was the priority. They had to do that first and foremost, even if it meant losing the war. If they could eradicate the Jews then that was their primary agenda.
- They wanted to eradicate the gypsies eventually. During the war they killed about 90,000–100,000. Yet that was not a priority.
- They eventually intended to wipe out all the Polish, because they hated the Poles.
- They were going to wipe out all of the Ukrainians, and probably the Baltic people.
- The Jews were treated differently. That had to come first.
When we come to understand the foundation for Nazi anti-Semitism we have to recognize that this is the result of centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. One quote here from one of the scholars on the Holocaust:
“Of course Nazi anti-Semitism was not Christian in its essence …”
Let me give you a little aside. We have heard Dr. Susanna Kokkonen speak at this church a couple of times. She made the point that when she was first appointed to the Christian desk at Yad Vashem there was some push back from a lot of Jewish folks, a lot of Israelis, because there was an identification of Christianity with Nazism. Nazis were “Christians.” But the people who came to her defense were the survivors who were protected by Christians in Europe. They were very strong supporters. There are many Christians who support the Jews. There were many Christians who hid and protected Jews during the Holocaust.
“Nazi anti-Semitism was not Christian in its essence; in fact it was anti-Christian. Next to the Jews, there was no one Hitler hated more than the Christians, the true biblical evangelical Christians. And what resistance the Nazis did encounter was largely inspired by the church (those who believed the Bible). But these palliating reminders of Christian suffering and heroism can hardly alleviate the reproaches which the Christian conscience must feel when it views Auschwitz in the light of all the centuries of Christian persecution of the Jews.”
Another work by Raul Hilberg called The Destruction of the European Jews states that there are basically three policies historically that eventually led to Nazi anti-Semitism. These all developed after the 3rd – 4th century Christianity, once Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire made Christianity the legal religion of the Roman Empire in about AD 315. These are the three policies, and one followed the other:
It began with conversion. Once you read between the lines of what Constantine is saying, it does not mean what it means to most of you, which is a freewill decision by an individual, whether they are Jewish or not, whether to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and that He died on the Cross for their sins.
In the anti-Jewish mentality of the early church, conversion was basically understood that Jews had no right to live among Christians as Jews. Conversion was not defined by them as trusting Christ, but that as Jews they had no right to live as Jews among Christians. They had to convert.
If they did not convert, then eventually they would be expelled. They would be removed. They would be expelled from Gentile society. They would be isolated into ghettos, into their own towns and villages, moved off into the settles of the Pale of Settlement, but they were expelled from being involved with so-called Christians and Gentiles.
How may expulsions do you think have taken place for the Jews?
How many times have nations or countries expelled them from their midst since the 3rd–4th century AD?
The Jews have been expelled 81 times.
Some of the examples that we are more familiar with:
- In AD 1290 Edward I of England kicked the Jews out of England.
- In AD 1492 the Jews were kicked out of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.
This is one of the reasons why Columbus was looking for the New World. There has been a lot of talk that he was a converso, a converted Jew, and that his voyages were financed by Jewish merchants. They wanted him to find a place the Jews could go to be free from persecution.
When the Jews were kicked out of Spain in 1492 it eventually led to the total collapse of the Spanish economy. Spain lost its middle class and upper class, because it was financed by the Jews. Many of them left and migrated across Western Europe and ended up in Eastern Europe to get away from the anti-Semitism of these Western European Christian nations. The Polish at that time welcomed them because they felt like that would build their economy. You have conversion followed by expulsion.
Expulsion was followed by annihilation. This developed as an alternative to expulsion.
What we see here is an order:
- You have no right to live among us as Jews.
- By the time we get to Nazi Germany it is you (Jews) have no right to live.
- Thus, the annihilation of the Jewish people.
Raul Hilberg basically says that the Nazis did not discard the past. They built upon it and brought it to its ultimate conclusion. They took the history of Christian anti-Semitism from the 3rd–4th century onward and brought it to its ultimate conclusion. They did not kill out of anger or emotion or resentment. They killed out of an ideologically defined position that the Jews were evil and needed to be completely eradicated from human history.
Why should we study this?
We should study this because it was a life-shattering experience for Jews and non-Jews alike. Many still wrestle with the questions:
- How can you believe in a good God, in a loving God, if God allows this to happen in human history?
Basically this is the problem with evil.
- How can a good God allow bad things?
A Jewish Rabbi, Harold S. Kushner, wrote a well known book back in the 1980s called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. His conclusion was that God is out of control.
Is God out of control or is it perhaps that there exists a higher purpose?
- One reason to study is because of the impact that this has had on history and on individuals.
- Another is that we need to understand that one of the major sources for Nazi anti-Semitism came from within the professing church.
Many of the Nazi leaders:
- were good fathers;
- were educated;
- were intelligent;
- held high positions within the country and within society;
- were good Roman Catholics;
- were never excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
What influenced them?
One influence was Martin Luther, the former Roman Catholic priest, an Augustinian monk, who in his early years expected the Jews to flock to the banner of the gospel of Christ as He clearly articulated it. Martin Luther separated himself from the Roman Catholic Church, but when the Jews did not do that then Luther in his later years became very angry and bitter toward the Jews. He said some absolutely horrific things.
I want to temper that with something. I am not justifying some of the horrible things that Martin Luther said, but there is another side to the story. Part of the story is that in the Babylonian Talmud—most people are familiar with the Palestinian Talmud, not the Babylonian Talmud—but in the Babylonian Talmud there are some incredibly horrific and blasphemous things that are said about Jesus. These were things that were being taught in the synagogue, and some of the things were being said publically. This is part of the reason why Luther is reacting. It is because of this blasphemy against Christ.
That does not justify many of the things that Luther said. I am saying that that is an element and aside to this that very few people are aware of and very few people ever talk about. They want to dump completely on Martin Luther. He deserves about 75% of it, but not the full 100%.
Also, in a fascinating article by one of the most well-known early Christian archeologists, Albright. We will get to him in relation to archeology in a couple of weeks. What I also want to do is to talk about some of the things we did besides this. I finally think I have a handle on one of the most significant archeological debates that has been going on for about 60 years in terms of various sites related to early battles in Joshua.
Next week I will finish up this and then we will come back and talk the next time about A Tale of Three Cities: Bethel, Ai, and Jericho. Understanding how that fits together in the early part of Joshua. Albright was one of the early archeologists in the 1920s and 1930s. He was the one who did the initial digs of Bethel and also at Et Tel, which is thought of as Ai.
Albright wrote an article in 1947 called “The War in Europe and the Consequences for Biblical Studies.” In that he identifies some of the so-called Christians and Christian scholars who were responsible for a lot of the vitriol within Christianity towards the Jews. One of whom was a man named Gerhard Kittel.
Some of you, if you are knowledgeable about biblical studies, know that there is a ten-volume work in English called the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, by Gerhard Kittel. It was originally written in German. When Dr. Geoff Bromiley translated it into English, he had to remove all the anti-Semitism in the work that came from Kittel. Kittel was virulently anti-Semitic. He was a close confidant of Hitler and a member of the Nazi Party.
Another very well-known German scholar, a liberal Protestant, was a man named Emanuel Hirsch. He too was also responsible for this Christian anti-Semitism in Germany. Both Kittel and Hirsch were involved in the liberal wing of the Protestant Church, which clearly and for centuries bought into a Replacement Theology.
We have to answer this question:
How does a good God allow bad things to happen to people?
That is the basic problem of evil. I will conclude with that next time, but in terms of all of this I want to play a quick video here to end on a high note. This is the story of Nicholas Winton, who rescued children. There is a book about Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation: Save One Life, Save the World.
According to any of the information that I have read on Nicholas Winton and heard about him, there is no indication that he was anything other than just a Brit on holiday in Prague. He decided that these children needed to be rescued and he did it. He was a stockbroker. He was not a Christian. He was not motivated by Christian beliefs.
If this is what an unbeliever, a human being, can do, we as believers ought to be able to rise above that. You can read about Nicholas Winton. You can watch other YouTube videos that are available related to Nicholas Winton. This was a very short clip that I wanted to show everybody.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to think through this very difficult issue and come to understand how You oversee the affairs of men, the importance of individual freedom and volition, which means that if we are free to do good we are also free to do evil. That if there is going to be true freedom in the human race, then the negative down side is that there is also going to be evil. Yet, nevertheless, You still oversee it. You still restrain it from engaging its fullest extent. You still work in the lives of many people as You did even during the Holocaust.
Father, we pray that as we think this through that You would help us to be able to formulate answers and explanations that as this topic may come up in our lives that we may have an answer for the hope that is in us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”