In 1994, my senior high history class walked through the halls of Sydney’s Holocaust museum. I cannot remember the temperature that day, although I do remember it being cold.
At the entrance to the museum we were greeted by two elderly gentlemen. Both of whom warmly welcomed us, then introduced us to our tour guide.
Afterwards we were slowly escorted throughout the building.
Our guide would stop and allow us time to reflect on the photos, prison-camp clothing and other items of historical significance.
Upon arriving at the final room of the tour, our Jewish guide stopped and cautioned us about it’s contents:
“this room is full of disturbing images; you do not have to go in if you don’t want too“.
Not deterred by his caution, most of us went in. Those who didn’t, stayed outside. The rest all silently moved around the room, looking at the photographic record on each of the four walls.
Each wall was neatly covered in black and white photos. They were grim, blunt documentary evidence of the brutality of this time and the unruly isms that misguided it.
I am thankful for my teachers and these Jewish men. They took a risk and engaged with young Christians in a deeply vulnerable way.
The two words ‘never again’ hit hard that day. Nineteen years on and the affect still lingers. The words are still an eerie reminder of what ‘never forget’, enshrined on a plaque in Auschwitz, means.
‘Never again’ is a motto of resilience. It is a necessary imperative that calls us to heed the warnings of the past.
Today, the historicity of the Jewish holocaust is questioned. If anything this shows that the veil of deceit, which allowed this atrocity, is still present in certain parts of the global community.
As Gene Veith stated:
‘fascism may have been defeated militarily in 1945, it wasn’t academically’.[i]
Evidence of this is seen in how fascism wears the mask of political correctness and hides behind Marxism (Veith). Further evidence of this is seen in how fascism has hijacked cultural sensitivity in order to deny the Judeo-Christian God of the bible, and defend an ideology that, under the guise of reason, becomes solely about subversion, segregation, isolation, power and control.
It should ‘never be forgotten’ that God summons Christians to challenge
‘the ideas that led to Auschwitz with special scrutiny. This is especially true when those ideas, often adopted uncritically, are still in vogue’ [ii]
These ideas still exist. They are found in modernist interpretations of Frederic Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. All of whom had a direct influence on fascism and Nazism (Veith 1993 & Smith 2007).
Anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth taught that ‘Christianity is the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ [iii]. Because true human identity and freedom is grounded in the God who became flesh, we must not turn to any ideology to define our identity.
It is important to remember that the subordination of the Church to the State in Germany at this time was understood as progressive and enlightened.
Christians cannot fail to see and then act responsibly in order to insure that this never happens again.
Theologian Thomas Torrance once wrote that:
‘I had been in Palestine, as it was then called, in 1936 when the Grand Mufti came back to Jerusalem from visiting Hitler and spread the terrible poison of anti-Semitism all over the Middle East…in his visit to Israel in 1977 Torrance states I was altogether overwhelmed by the massive evidence vividly placarded before my eyes of the slaughter of six million Jews’ [iv]
The event which Torrance describes presents us with an imperative. The church can never forget whose they are, or become politically ignorant about who they stand in agreement with.
Torrance reminds us of the historical parallels which exist in the present and should not be ignored.
For the saying “never again” to become a reality, we must not forget why it was said in the first place.
(Video content warning: some graphic images)
[i] Veith Jnr, G.E. 1993 modern fascism: the threat to the Judeo-Christian worldview Kindle for P.C. Ed.
[ii] ibid, 1993
[iii] Gorringe. T. 1999, Against Hegemony (p.64); Barth, K. CD IV/II:524
[iv] Torrance, T.F. 1994 Preaching Christ today: the Gospel and scientific thinking Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI, USA