83 years ago today, several hundred Jews were murdered in the German Reich, numerous synagogues and prayer rooms as well as thousands of stores, homes were attacked and vandalized: The so-called Reichskristallnacht. Tens of thousands of Jews were imprisoned in concentration camps. Many took their own lives. This terrible night marked the beginning of an extreme persecution of Jewish fellow citizens in the German Reich. At the end of this persecution, more than 6 million Jews were bestially murdered in Europe in 1945 (for more details, see Wikipedia). It was a terrible time. Not only the Jews, but also gypsies, disabled people, “enemies of the state”, sick people and many other people were persecuted for ideological reasons.
The persecution of the Jews is not an invention of Nazi Germany. In the Middle Ages they were branded as well poisoners and spreaders of disease. The reasons for this were and are manifold. They were often based on slander, misinformation, selfishness, etc.
The Jewish people
The Bible describes the Jews – called Israelites – as the people God chose. Not because they were particularly clever and strong and great, no. In Deut.it says:
For you are a holy people – you belong entirely to the LORD your God. He has chosen you out of all the peoples of the world to be his own. He did not do this because you are more numerous than the other nations. For you are the smallest of all peoples. No, he turned to you out of love and because he wanted to keep the promise he made to your ancestors.Deut. 7,6-8
One would think: Actually the mighty Romans or Egyptians would have been more worthy. But God says about Israel:
For this people, the descendants of Jacob, are the property of the LORD. He himself has chosen them. He found them in the desolate wilderness, where the wild beasts howl at night. He wrapped them tightly in his arms, guarding them like the apple of his eye.Deut. 32,9+10
I think a small insignificant people is totally dependent on God. A large nation can take care of itself, is strong itself, is self-confident. Doesn’t need God (so it thinks) – that’s what it’s all about. Here and in our lives: We are to depend entirely on God – Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. God is the provider. He gives us the dignity. God writes our history and the history of His people – it is worth reading all this in the Bible!
God intercedes for His people. Whoever messes with it, messes with God. He who blesses His people reaps blessings himself:
You nations, cheer Israel! The Lord takes revenge for the death of the people who served Him. He pays back their enemies. And to his own people he forgives all their sins. He takes away the guilt from their land.Deut. 32,43
God says to Abraham – the progenitor of Isreal:
Whoever wishes you good, I will bless him. But whoever wishes you evil, I will curse him! All the peoples of the earth shall be blessed through you.”Gen. 12,3
Germany did a lot of repentance after the war. Reconciled with Israel, supported the people – and when we look at how Germany is doing: we are truly blessed!
Actually, my starting point is the events of 1938. Nevertheless, this topic is more topical than ever: anti-Semitism flares up again and again. Hostility, however, is not limited to Jews: immigrants, asylum seekers, people are discriminated against, hated, persecuted, injured, killed because of their skin color or religion. Dissenters are muzzled or ridiculed. People are bullied for various reasons, excluded from social life and harassed. Denunciation spreads again in the Corona crisis. Conflicts between neighboring nations are on the rise. One can quickly find oneself in the online pillory.
What can we do?
We can’t help what our ancestors did that was terrible. It’s not our fault – we Germans in particular don’t have to let anyone tell us that. But we are in control of our actions: We can try to prevent a Holocaust from happening again. Everyone can treat other people with kindness and respect. Everyone can stand up for justice. Everyone can stand up for the weaker in this world. Everyone can help. Everyone can pray. Our guilt is not what others have done, our guilt is when we could have done something but failed to do it.
We can bless Israel in prayer. We can support Holocaust survivors and poor Israelis. Let us pray for peace in the Middle East. Let’s not forget what happened back then and stand up for other people. Everyone can do something!
There are numerous museums and monuments that deal with the subject of the Holocaust. I myself was in Berlin between the stelae of the Holocaust Memorial, in the Dachau concentration camp, in the Holocaust Museum in Washington – where I was very shaken by the cattle car used to transport the prisoners. I regularly attend the Holocaust memorial event in Burghausen on January 27 – the fates of the people described there send a cold shiver down my spine.