In 1978 Congress approved a resolution to commemorate in the following year the “Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.” The term, holocaust, is the destruction of extensive number of lives by fire or the consumption of a sacrifice by fire. Congress applied this definition to “six million Jews and millions of other people [who] were murdered in concentration camps as part of a program of extermination carried out by the Nazi party during World War II.”
A similar resolution was introduced in 1980, and by 1982 the resolution included the “Victims of the Holocaust” without distinction of the victims. Meaning there was no specific mention of the Jews or the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Why the change was made not to identify or specify a particular number of Jews is unknown. Perhaps it is because the general terminology adopted in 1982 includes all who suffered during the holocaust as indicated in the 1979 resolution which also referenced “millions of other people [who] were murdered in concentration camps.”
May 5 commemorates the “Day of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.” We remember the men and women who were victims of mass genocide for their Jewish identity, religious belief, or ill-perceived value to society such as the mentally ill. The hope and prayer is that Nazi-like people, motivated by values rooted in hate, power and control, are not allowed by the greater society to repeat this same offense again.
I recall visiting Buchenwald concentration camp located outside Weimar, Germany several years ago. It was eerily haunting to be in a place where history records so many were murdered by the leadership of the Third Reich.
The area of the Buchenwald concentration camp was visible several miles away from certain parts of the former Weimar Republic. Historical accounts indicate that Weimar citizens witnessed railway boxcars loaded with prisoners being transported to the concentration camp.
How could so many people sit idly by and do nothing in response to the horror they knew was transpiring on the next mountain? While at Buchenwald I also saw the base of the smoke stacks where incinerating ovens were built with sliding platforms on which to place bodies.
I was told there was a prisoner section near the entrance of Buchenwald, but this section had an open corridor with fencing or pens on both sides. On one side of this pathway was a pen where prisoners were located, and on the opposite side was a pen containing animals. I was told that this pathway was where young German children were escorted and told that the prisoners on one side were indistinct from the animals on the other side. They were both considered non-human by the men heading up this godless regime, and apparently they were indoctrinating the next generation with a heinous visual aid.
How was it possible that a government became so intolerant and hostile that it turned on its own citizens? How was it possible for ideology to lead to degradation, humiliation, and annihilation of those who dissented or were deemed different from these men?
Let us stand with God and resist the temptation of a version of nationalism that maximizes government and eliminates God. This is idolatry. Instead, let us declare the gospel message so that those who are blind to truth may repent and see the light of Christ no matter how dark it gets. Let us pray for the strength to oppose evil so that it never becomes permissible to repeat the horrors of the Nazi inspired holocaust.