The hall was long and cold. The only noise heard was our footsteps on the brick floor. Looking down the hall we could see small rays of sun blasting through the tiny windows on the doors, proving that perhaps there still can be light in the darkest of places. We walked down the hall together, trying to comprehend what had taken place in these cells.
We were in the torture chambers of the Dachau concentration camp.
The fact that three young Jews walked through the halls alive and well infused hope into the story like the sun rays shined light into the cells. The hall was eerie and rooms held their own demons. We came to remember. We came to bear witness to the horrors that marked our people. The scar that the Holocaust left on the world can never be fully healed. The depth of destruction and loss of life can never be fully comprehended. Millions upon millions died. Life was taken away by such a hatred that humanity will never be able to understand in full the magnitude in which it was cut down.
As we walked through the first concentration camp that was built we were numbed to the horrors that took place there. Words will never be enough to adequately communicate the destruction of that horrible place.
Germany is forever scarred by her own history. Anyone who could forget such an atrocity must come and walk through the torture chambers and feel the weight of darkness there. It is real. It is palpable. It will remain in these walls as a testament to the lives it destroyed. The scars of Germany’s many wars followed us everywhere we went. The reality of the destruction struck us time and time again.
Just as much as we believed in our mission to visit and honor our luminaries, we also held the responsibility of bearing witness to the monstrosity that happened to our people. This is why we came to Dachau.
Dachau holds a silence. It feels strange to say it but there is even a peace there. Before leaving we held up our Israeli flag to its gates and took a picture. We swore again to ourselves, the way we swore into the Israeli Defense Forces, that “never again” will truly mean never again.
Our trip was powerful on many levels. We came to Germany hoping to honor not only the six million who perished, but also six holy souls who gave Messianic Judaism so very much. We came to Germany a bit naively thinking that we would actually be able to find all six of these holy graves—that war and anti-Semitism would not have demolished them in their wake. Sadly, we found only three.
Each grave that we were unable to find shed new light on the horrors of the war. Each missing grave felt like a new blow to the stomach. After leaving the cemetery where Theophilus Lucky had been buried we spent several hours in silence. Each processing what was taken away from us.
The moment we realized that his grave was destroyed along with other Messianic luminaries’ graves was the instant that Hitler’s war turned from a corporate “never again” to a very personal promise of “neveragain.”
We as a Messianic community are already so small. Accounts and rumors are told about the pre-World War II Messianic community. Leipzig was hailed by many luminaries as being a safe haven for Jews who found faith in Yeshua. Whole communities in Poland are recorded as having numerous congregants become disciples of Yeshua. Imagine what Messianic Judaism would be today had their lives not been cut short.
Today we take on the responsibility of keeping their memories alive by tracking down, translating, and republishing their works. The task can be daunting at times, but we see it as part of restoring what was taken from us. It is what we give back in our “never again.” Vine of David has published and will continue to publish the works of these great minds. We will find them, restore them, and bring back what was lost to our community today.
When our plane finally landed back home in Israel we experienced such joy. Several of our luminaries dreamed of the day when the Torah of Moshe would come forth from Zion—when the Messianic community of Jerusalem would be thriving as a center for education and bear witness to the greatness of our Messiah. Abram Poljak, Agnes Waldstein, Yechiel Lichtenstein, Levy Hirsch, Franz Delitzsch, and Theophilus Lucky all dreamed of what Messianic Judaism would look like today, and we like to believe that they would have been proud of it.
We as bearers of Messiah’s name have a responsibility to the vision of the kingdom. Our crown is adorned with precious jewels of great men and women who came before us—seekers of truth, visionaries, and doers of the Word. May our work continue, and may HaShem bless us as we seek to find other Messianic luminaries.
This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, October 27, 2016, and reposted with permission.