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FRIDAY FEATURE - Fading memories, fading sympathies

The unique challenge of Holocaust remembrance

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Posted on: 
24 Jan 2020
FRIDAY FEATURE - Fading memories, fading sympathies
Memory is so important, yet so fragile. The most often repeated command in the Tanakh is to “remember!” Yet we are mere humans, and the memories captured in our minds tend to fade so easily. On Monday, January 27th, I will have the privilege to address hundreds of Holocaust survivors at a remembrance gathering in Haifa to honor the memory of the six million Jews massacred in the Nazi genocide. The ceremony will be held at a unique “warm home” which is solely dedicated to caring for needy Holocaust survivors – the only one of its kind in Israel. There will be cabinet ministers and other dignitaries there as well. Sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem with Yad Ezer L’Haver, the warm home is located in an older neighbourhood of upper Haifa, and although I have been there dozens of times, I still worry if I will remember how to get there through the winding hilly streets.

For most of the survivors I have met, they have a much greater worry on their mind, which is that people will forget about their suffering and loss during the Holocaust. They fear the world will not remember, and thus will not carry the important lessons of the Shoah (Holocaust) into the future. Sadly, their fears are a valid concern.

In their lifetimes, those European Jews who survived Hitler’s genocide campaign have witnessed the rise of Holocaust denial, as well as the resurgence of anti-Semitism. This has been a particularly bad year for terror attacks and hate crimes against Jewish people. From Pittsburgh to Halle, synagogues have been, quite literally, under siege.

Nevertheless, I would urge all my Jewish friends to take courage. There are many in the world who have learned the lessons of the Holocaust, and this is especially true of Christians. We used to be the Jewish people’s worst enemies, but ever since the Holocaust, Christians have become their best friends. This new era of close Jewish-Christian friendship also has something to do with the rebirth of the nation of Israel, which is the best answer we have to the threat of anti-Semitism. But we are here now, remembering with them not only the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the long, tragic legacy of Christian hostility towards Jews. And we say to both: “Never Again!”

Many of the survivors of the Holocaust helped to build the state of Israel. They are here by historic right. Yet some say that the world only accepted Israel as a nation 70 years ago out of sympathy for Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. I am afraid there is some truth to this.

When the United Nations voted to accept Israel as a member state in 1949, the key vote was cast by the Soviet Union. If they had opposed Israel’s admittance, the vote would have turned out very different. But the Soviets had just enough sympathy for Jewish suffering because of what the Red Army discovered when it liberated Auschwitz exactly 75 years ago. Yet it did not take long for that sympathy to wear off. Within a few short years, the Soviet Union was oppressing its Jewish population and joining with its Arab allies to try to wipe Israel off the map.

The lesson is clear! Sympathy for Jews can fade quickly, while hatred of the Jews never seems to disappear. Today, the Soviet Union may be gone. But senior advisors to Vladimir Putin recently began reviving the old libel that Jews murdered the Russian royal family. Meanwhile, angry calls for the killing of Jews have been heard once more echoing off Brandenburg Gate. Every Jewish synagogue, school, and community center in Europe has security guards, and American Jewry is now scrambling to do the same. 

So my dear Jewish friends, remember to stay on guard! Do not be deceived when members of the United Nations or European Union stop for a few moments one day each year to show sympathy for Jewish suffering in the past. It may be there only to ease their conscience, so they can go back to criticizing and condemning the Jewish state every other day of the year. Indeed, their sympathy can fade so fast, even by sundown.

Yet also be encouraged that there are millions of Christians at your side today! We have more than a temporary sympathy for your sufferings. We have a love for you from God that is stronger than hate. It is a love that compels us to stand with you and defend you. And it will never fade away. Am Israel Chai!

David R. Parsons is Vice President & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.