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ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
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The Verdict
   

HOLOCAUST AND CHRISTIANITY

by Alexander Kimel

Saul Friendlander, a noted Holocaust scholar, wrote: "Does Christianity bear a historic responsibility for the Shoah, or should Nazism be considered as a fundamental revolt against the "Judeo-Christian" interpretation of the sense of human life and history? Any answer to these questions cannot but leave unresolved questions and continuous doubts"

I do believe that both those thesis are right. Without doubt, for Hitler and his clique, Nazism was a revolt against the Judeo-Christian ethics. On the other hand, anti-Semitism, fueled by teaching of the Churches numbed the conscience of the perpetrators and bystanders secured their cooperation or silence, and this made the Holocaust so devastating.

Nazism and Christianity:
Hitler dreamed of world domination to be achieved through wars and conquests, and for this he needed the brutalization of the German people. Christianity was in his way. For Hitler terror, brutality and violence were necessary tools; he admired brutality in others, even in his enemies. Goebbels notes in his Diaries about Hitler's admiration for Stalin's brutality:

"The Fuhrer, incidentally, has a rather high regard for the Soviet war leadership. Stalin's brutal hand has saved the Russian front. To hold our own we shall have to apply similar methods our side."

Rauschning quotes Hitler saying: "Brutality is respected. Brutality and physical strength. The plain man in the street respects nothing but brutal strength and ruthlessness - women and children too. The people need wholesome fear. They want to fear something."

Hitler wanted to establish a new religion, with himself as the prophet. Felix Kersten, Himmler's confidante, found a variety of religious books in Himmler's library, and Himmler explained to him " I am to prepare a new Nazi religion. I am to draft the new Bible, the Bible of the faith.... The Fuhrer has decided that, after the victory of the Third Reich, he will abolish Christianity throughout Great Germany, and establish the faith on its ruins. The latter will preserve the idea of God, but it will be very vague and indistinct. The Fuhrer will replace Christ as the savior of humanity. Thus, millions and millions of people will say only Hitler's name in their prayers, and a hundred years from now nothing will be known but the new religion, which will endure for centuries."

Holocaust and Christianity:
The Bystander Nations, could not overcome the awesome power of the Nazi war machine to resist the total annihilation of their compatriots, but they could have saved Jews by hiding them, helping them to blend into the general population. Without the help of the Bystander Nations, the Germans could have killed a large percentage of Jews, but thousands upon thousands of Jews who run away, hid the forest, hid on Aryan papers, or took up arms would have survived. In order to proceed with the extermination the Germans had to identify their victims, isolate them, demoralize them, ship them to the death camps, and conduct a mop-up operation against the enterprising individuals who escaped. The degree, in which the Bystander Nations (Christians) helped the Nazis, determined the Jewish survival rate. Judging from the dismal survival rate, especially in Eastern Europe, the Germans received extensive cooperation from the Bystander Nations.

Christianity and the Perpetrators
. Almost all perpetrators arose from Christian culture and some of them were devout Christians. For example the commandant of Auschwitz Hoess was a devout Catholic, Tiso the President of Slovakia was a Catholic priest. In many camps the killing was suspended on Sundays, so that the murderers could attend Church services. At no time were the killers censured by the religious authorities or denied the last rites in time of their execution.

A noted theologian, Prof. Littell stated:

"It is amazing to me, a Christian theologian, to see how the idea of "the silence of the churches" during the Nazi genocide of the Jews still is passed on. Why couldn't we hear "the silence?" Could it be because of the thunderous adulation accorded the Fuehrer by so many of the church "leaders," leading the mobs that after the Enabling Act passed for repositories of "public opinion?" Cardinal von Galen, actually in some respects one of the better clerics, in MARCH of 1942, in a Pastoral Letter to memorialize those fallen in battle, wrote: "They intended to defeat Bolshevism through a new crusade with the battlecry "God wills it" - as a few years before the liberator Franco in an address in Seville proclaimed Christian goals. They died for Europe, to hold back the threatening red flood and to create a protecting wall for the entire western world." There are many similar documents in the record. We may regret deeply the self-deception and misreading of the historical situa- tion that led to the churches' - and not just the German! - optimism about Hitler, but have we now come to a time of re-writing history? The bitter truth is that the Christians faithful unto death - Bonhoeffer, Lichtenberg, Delp, Jaegerstaetter, von Moltke - were FEW IN NUMBER, and almost universally abandonned by the Princes of the Church and other Eminenten of the established churches.

Conclusions:
Christianity does not bear a historical responsibility for the Holocaust, but because of the anti-Semitism it fostered, Christianity bears a moral responsibility for the supporting roles or inaction of the Christian population during the Shoah, and for the general indifference and silence of the Christian Churches.

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