Keeping the Memory Alive

January 22, 2018

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This week, the world will observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Motivated by a fanatical hatred of all things Jewish, and a murderous desire to rid society of "undesirable" elements, the Nazi regime that ruled Germany during the mid-20th century murdered 6 million Jews – one-third of the Jewish people. The slaughter was systematic, methodical, and brutal. It ended the lives of men, women and children – and it likewise brought to a close the rich culture and scholarship that characterized the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe.

Even today, it is shocking to think of the number of people who "looked the other way" when presented with evidence of these crimes – or those who said they were only "following orders." But, at the same time, we must work hard to recall and acknowledge those heroic figures who went to great lengths to save Jews – and to be clear that not all of these rescuers were Jewish.

The non-Jews who put themselves at great personal risk to save Jews are remembered as "righteous gentiles." Many were Christians – Andre Trocme, the Protestant pastor who helped make an entire village in southern France, Le Chambon, a safe haven for persecuted Jews; Corrie ten Boom, whose home in Holland sheltered those fleeing Nazi oppression; Raoul Wallenburg, who, in the memorable words of Fellowship friend Congressman Tom Lantos, put "his unarmed, lean Swedish body between the Nazi war machine and the thousands of intended victims." Others were less well-known than these – but all are deserving of our gratitude.

So let us pause in our daily routine to remember the 6 million who were killed simply because they were Jewish. Let us remember those who survived, but lost all they had, including home, family and friends. And let us also keep alive the memory of the righteous gentiles whose faith led them to save Jewish lives – and whose example points the way to all of us who dedicate ourselves to building bridges between Jews and Christians.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President and Founder, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada

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