Gerda Wiseman’s entire family was murdered in the Holocaust. It weighed sixty-eight pounds when it was discovered by two American soldiers a few hours after Germany formally surrendered to the Allied forces. Six years after the Nazi terror, her feet were severely frostbitten, and doctors feared she might be amputated. She was in critical condition and was unconscious for several days as she was slowly restored to her health condition in a field hospital.
One of the soldiers who found Gerda opened the door of his jeep for her. She later said, “This was the moment to restore humanity, dignity, and freedom.” That soldier Kurt Klein and Gerda fell in love and eventually married. They moved to the United States, where they had three children. They were married for over fifty years until his death in 2002. By her death on 3 April at the age of ninety-seven, she had eight grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren.
In 1996, a documentary about her won an Oscar. When she took the stage with the director, she told a world audience, “In my eyes, I see those years and days, and those who have never lived to see the magic of a dull evening at home.” In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“We must remember the past, or it will become our future.”
Yesterday was one of the saddest days of the year for me. Not because of anything happening where I live, but because of what happened seven thousand miles to the east in a country that I consider my “second home.”
Like Times of Israel Reports, “Israel paused at 10 a.m. Thursday as sirens sounded across the country in memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II.”
I have led over thirty study tours to the Holy Land and was in Israel on Yom Hashoa, the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. For two minutes, everything stopped. Cars, buses, drivers and passengers stopped on the roads with their heads bowed. Celebrations are held in schools, public institutions, and army bases across the country. An hour later, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) held a “Everyone has a name” ceremony, in which lawmakers recited the names of Holocaust victims.
This annual remembrance is vital not only so that the Jewish people can remember those who were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators, but so that the world can pledge that such a tragedy will never happen again. “One third of the world’s Jews were systematically murdered” and added, “We must remember the past or it will become our future,” one hundred Holocaust survivors stated in a video released yesterday.
This is at a time when reports of antisemitic activity around the world have reached a record level. The number of antisemitic incidents across the United States in 2021 rose 34 percent from the previous year to the highest number on record. According to a new survey, nearly half of Israelis fear a second Holocaust.
Why did German churches raise Nazi flags?
Why do the Nazis and their collaborators believe that killing six million people (a quarter of them children) is morally defensible on religious grounds?
As the German Catholic Church admitted in 2020, German bishops were motivated by nationalism, anti-communist sentiment, and a desire to preserve the church by avoiding confrontation with the Nazis. As a result, many of their followers requested the regime’s support during the war. On Hitler’s fiftieth birthday in 1939, churches raised Nazi flags and called for the protection of the “Fuhrer and Reich”.
Now let’s ask our question differently: Why does Vladimir Putin think that invading Ukraine and killing Ukrainians is morally defensible on religious grounds?
As Dr. Ryan Denison points out in a recent article for the Denison Forum, the Moscow Patriarch endorsed the war as a holy struggle, described it as an attempt by the government to protect Russia from the scourge of Western immorality, and stated that it was in the fight against Ukraine and Russia. fights against Christ.
So it’s not surprising, as Mark Legge noted in a recent article for the Denison Forum, that Putin’s approval rating has jumped to about 83 percent since the invasion while only 4 percent of Russians believe he is responsible for the war.
These are just two examples of religion being used for appalling immoral ends. at Reclaiming Our Reason: How the Fear of God Triumphs Over the Fears That Divide UsMichael Horton explains this tragic phenomenon, noting that many religions throughout history have been practiced to “administer God’s judgment.” He writes: “We have to be the star of our life’s movie. Therefore, individually and collectively, we invent ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ as ways to avoid reality.”
If I could build a religion that would allow me to do what I wanted and even support my immoral decisions, that religion would be utilitarian and popular. Thus we see the popularity of “sacred prostitution” in the ancient world (sexual relations with prostitutes in temples were seen as a way to worship the deities these prostitutes served). We find false prophets advocating the king’s agenda for their own personal advancement (see 1 Kings 22). We see religious authorities inciting crowds to demand the crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 27:21-23). From then until now, religions have often been a means to immoral ends.
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal”
Let’s take this discussion home: Is there a transactional dimension to your relationship with God? Do you tend to worship God on Sunday and He blesses you on Monday? To start the day with prayer (and maybe this daily article) So bless your day? To respond angrily if he doesn’t “keep his end of the bargain”?
The antidote is twofold.
One: Remember that God is the “eternal King” of the universe whether we acknowledge His sovereignty or not (Jeremiah 10:10). It is not a subject of our subject, a means to our ends. So let us join Paul in prayer, “to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, only God, to honor and glory for ever and ever” (1 Timothy 17:1).
two: Celebrate the unconditional love of this King for us today. He loved us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and he loves us today “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). We cannot make him love us more or less than he does because by his very nature “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Irish writer Thomas More called us:
Come, wretch, where you weaken,
Come to the mercy seat, kneel fervently;
Here I bring your wounded hearts, here I tell you your anguish;
The earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
What “sadness” does Heaven need to heal today?