By Arlene Bridges Samuels
If we held a moment of silence for every victim of the Holocaust, we would be silent for eleven-and-a-half years.
You have probably seen or heard this devastating truism before. Six million European Jews were murdered. Countless others were tortured. Yet we must remember—so that such an atrocity never happens again.
This week, as we honor the 76th anniversary of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we recall its origins and its vital importance. Yesterday, President Joe Biden affirmed, “The facts are not up for question, and each of us must remain vigilant and speak out against the resurgent tide of anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry and intolerance, here at home and around the world.”
The European Coalition for Israel (ECI) marked the day with an online memorial service that encouraged faith communities around the world to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition on anti-Semitism: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The language, which was developed and agreed-upon in 2016, goes on:
“Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”
The U.S. and other IGRA member states adopted this language in 2016. It has since been endorsed by more than 40 nations, plus the European Union and the U.N. Secretary-General. Some of these nations have spoken out firmly in favor of the language, such as Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany. He recently said: “It must be clear that anti-Semitism is a sin and contradicts everything Christianity stands for.”
ECI chairman Tor G. Gull stated: “Whereas Jew hatred was once a European plague it has now increasingly become a global problem. As Europeans we have a historic responsibility to be at the forefront of this global battle.”
This year, ECI is encouraging local churches worldwide to mention Holocaust remembrance in their January 31 services.
Over the decades, many institutions and individuals have aided in preserving our memory of the Holocaust. Preeminent among them is Yad Vashem, the International Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is the world’s foremost source for Holocaust education, documentation, and research. Since its creation in 1953, a million people a year visit and learn in this extraordinary museum and educational facility. Yad Vashem is helping to ensure that six million Jews who perished will be honored and that “Never Again” will remain as our watchword.
From 2007 to 2016, I was privileged to work on the staff of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Part of my position as Christian Outreach Director in the southeastern U.S. included recruitment of Christian leaders to visit Israel, hosted by the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). I staffed numerous trips for a weeklong series of geopolitical briefings enfolded in a spiritual pilgrimage. We always included a visit to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
Led by a skilled Israeli guide, we began our walks into the architecturally stark, sobering epicenter of Holocaust education. Our groups walked the somber gray concrete hallways, some with lofty ceilings that soared overhead. Other sections were filled with the grim memorabilia of Nazi symbols and propaganda.
We watched short films that featured Holocaust survivors telling their haunting stories. We viewed photographs of entire families that later perished, not knowing that the joyous family picnics or Passover meals they were celebrating would be their last. Each group would fall silent in shock as they saw the collections and artifacts—too many to name—and wondered how such evil could have happened.
Our several hours ended when we stepped out onto a balcony overlooking the forest below us. I would draw the stunned group together for a much-needed pause and time of prayer led by one of the pastors. Holding hands in a circle, I noted, “We bring you here to help you to encounter the past, and to inspire you as Christians to advocate for the Jewish community whose ancient ancestors gave us our Scriptures and our Savior. We cannot follow in the footsteps of the masses who turned their heads away from evil.”
Then, we walked along the tree-lined “Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations” honoring Righteous Gentiles—non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. I liked to stop at the tree planted in honor of the beloved Corrie ten Boom. Millions of Christians have been inspired by her story in the film, The Hiding Place. Corrie saved 330 Jews in her homeland, the Netherlands, by hiding them in her home. I would pause to comment, “The Lord strengthened the brave Christians honored here. In today’s world, we too can act on behalf of God’s chosen people to turn back anti-Semitism with truth.” As of 2020, Yad Vashem recognizes 27,712 as Righteous Among the Nations.
Over the years, many of our participants took my words to heart in ways big and small, taking up the mantle of the brave Righteous Gentiles. Recognizing this week’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, here are a few inspirations to spark your interest to oppose the new wave of anti-Semitism. These are just a few of the many examples from Christian leaders who returned to the United States from the AIPAC/AIEF trips and chose diverse ways to express their commitment to the Jewish people.
Many pastors, after traveling with us for their first time to Israel, returned to lead their own tours in the Holy Land, which always include a visit to Yad Vashem. After her first trip, Penny Young Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America (CWA), asked—and her board approved—about adding Israel support as their seventh core mission. The CWA is the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization. Reverend Mark Jenkins, media pastor and producer for The Victory Hour, dedicated his skills to filming national Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies annually in Israel. Since his first trip to Israel, each year he releases the film A Nation Remembers—with its gripping stories of heroism and survival—as a powerful reminder.
Over the years, some group members have signed up for Yad Vashem’s Christian Leadership Seminar. The 10-day intensive course is designed to teach Christians about the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. In turn, they educate their churches, families, and friends. The seminar takes place as part of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem (CFYV), founded in October 2006. Yad Vashem partnered with International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) to educate Christians about the universal lessons of the Holocaust. They mobilize Christians from many countries to actively promote Holocaust awareness and to fight modern-day anti-Semitism.
Some Christian leaders, including Reverend Jim Bevis, founder of CSR Ministries, raised funds for a portable bomb shelter in southern Israel. It’s a true lifesaver—a way to protect (via Operation Lifeshield) to protect Jewish civilians from terrorists who are dedicated to staging/creating another Holocaust.
Other participants returned home and organized intercessory prayer in their small group or chose to pass along good news and facts about Israel in their emails and social media. Aglow International’s Israel Education Director, Sandy Wezowicz, organized and taught large educational training sessions for Aglow members on how to advocate for Israel in Congress. Another leader, Robin Rowan—founder of Church 4 Israel and Truth to Policy—has remained active via AIPAC to educate and engage members of Congress to support legislation that benefits the United States and Israel. CBN Israel pioneered and has remained at the forefront of Israel advocacy. Through documentary films, trustworthy news from their Middle East Bureau, and many other initiatives, CBN Israel gives practical aid to Holocaust survivors living in the Jewish homeland.
When educating others about the Holocaust, we owe a debt of gratitude to former President Eisenhower. When Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, and Omar Bradley toured the Ohrdruf concentration camp in Gotha, Germany, a week after liberation, Eisenhower brought photographers into Ohrdruf. It was the first camp liberated by U.S. forces in 1945. In a 2018 talk at the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida, David Eisenhower, the general’s grandson, explained that his grandfather believed that if people didn’t see the results of the Holocaust, too many of them would have trouble grasping how terrible it had been.
Regrettably, General Eisenhower was right. Despite the compelling photos he ordered taken that day at Ohrdruf, there are many who deny that the Holocaust took place—even prominent figures. One such example is Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, who wrote his doctoral dissertation about the Holocaust at a university in the Soviet Union in 1982. An article in Tablet magazine notes a clever distortion Abbas makes in his paper. He claimed, not that the Holocaust didn’t happen, but that “the Zionists joined forces with the Nazis to inflict that atrocity on European Jewry.” Claiming the Jews were part of murdering Jews is despicable. It is denial of the most basic facts about this dark period in history.
The United Nations doesn’t deny that the Holocaust occurred, yet on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2021 two points should be noted: The United Nations General Assembly itself set the day, January 27, in 2005. The U.N. website officially says that the organization “pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and reaffirms its unwavering commitment to counter anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence. The date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops on 27 January 1945.”
That sounds noble and high-minded and accurate. But UNWatch.org, which keeps track of the United Nations, tells another story—one that highlights the hypocrisy of the above United Nations statement: “Key UN bodies that pronounce themselves on human rights and international law … fail to uphold founding UN principles of equality and universality. The numbers alone reveal the UN’s irrational obsession with one nation. Even those who deem Israel deserving of criticism cannot dispute that this amounts to an extreme case of selective prosecution.”
Facts that prove the U.N.’s constant effort to delegitimize and attack the world’s only Jewish state appear at UN WATCH in their Human Rights Condemnatory Resolutions Against Israel Since 2006. Here’s a small sample from their website: 90 votes against Israel, 10 against Iran, 0 against Cuba, 0 against China, and 2 against Venezuela.
Although the United Nations is not a religious body, Matthew 23:27 is nevertheless applicable: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
Staying alert and involved, the worldwide evangelical Christian community can make a significant difference in turning back the tide of anti-Semitism washing over the world in 2021. With anti-Semitism rearing its evil, monstrous head against the Jewish state and Jewish communities worldwide our prayers and actions are essential.
Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week as we remember the Holocaust:
- Pray that God would comfort the nearly 400,000 Holocaust survivors who are still alive today, including nearly 200,000 survivors who live in Israel.
- Pray for Christian and Jewish organizations supplying love and care for Holocaust survivors, that they receive the donations needed for their important outreach.
- Pray against the toxic spread of anti-Semitism in our world today.
- Pray for the worldwide Christian community to become educated and active against all forms of anti-Semitism.
- Pray against “replacement theology” in our churches, which claims that God has rejected the Jews and that the church has replaced them as His chosen people.
- Pray for Israel’s vigilance as they continue to face threats of war and terror along their dangerous borders.
Yad Vashem provides enormous digital resources online and free of charge. A wonderful way to educate ourselves further and honor those who died would be to visit yadvashem.org.
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.