Some Thoughts on the Holocaust

Aaron's grandmother Reila and her two brothers, who survived the Holocaust and took this picture shortly after being reunited at a displaced persons camp in the American Zone of occupied Germany in 1946

We recently marked Holocaust Remembrance Day here in Israel and has alwaysbeen a very somber occasion. As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, it’s something personal for me. I always remember that the Holocaust was not just a crime against humanity, it was a crime against my family. Millions of other Jews in Israel and around the world feel the same way.

Because I feel this way, it has always bothered me that the spiritual aspect of the Holocaust is so rarely discussed and when it is, it’s usually explained as “the culmination of centuries of Christian anti-Semitism” or something along those lines. The anti-Semitic writings of Martin Luther and some other prominent Christian thinkers are always cited in this context, and rightfully so, as Hitler encouraged his followers to read them (while obliquely encouraging them to ignore everything else these Christian leaders ever said.)

However, I think the time has come to have a more comprehensive discussion of the spiritual influences which were at play in the rise of the Nazis and the Holocaust which they carried out. Because although the widely held traditional attitudes stemming from Replacement Theology certainly played a large role in the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy in the 1930s, it was far from being the only factor.

Many years ago I took the course from the Ministry of Tourism to be a tour guide in Israel. The material covered everything from the Stone Age up until modern times, which of course included the Holocaust. Our instructor’s presentation of this material was pretty standard, but he did say one thing which utterly astonished me. He said that “the Nazis weren’t Christians, they were pagans.” This is something I’d discovered myself many years previously, but to hear it from a Jewish instructor in a course conducted by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism was, as I say, astonishing. It certainly isn’t the narrative that is most often heard in Israel.

Most people know, for instance, that the Nazi symbol, the Swastika, wasn’t a Christian symbol. It is a symbol that is used by many non-Christian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and various pre-Christian pagan cults in Europe and many other countries, mostly in Asia. Yet few people ever connect Nazism to Hinduism or Buddhism because of the Swastika symbol they both use.

The Nazis also encouraged the production of the operas and music of Richard Wagner, which were heavily influenced by the pagan ideas and motifs from ancient Scandinavia and central Europe. Much of the pagentry one can see in Nazi propoganda films and newsreels of Nazi rallies is borrowed from the pagan traditions of ancient Rome. Indeed, the very word “Fascist” is a reference to an ancient Roman symbol of imperial authority.

There are many other examples which point to this true statement made by my tour guide course instructor. The Nazis indeed borrowed heavily from many pagan traditions from all over Europe, the Middle East and Asia. But one rarely hears anything about most of these influences. As far as most historians are concerned, the Holocaust was carried out primarily by Germans and aided by collaborators in France, Russia, Ukraine and other European countries, all of which were “Christian” countries of one kind or another and therefore, the Holocaust is understood almost exclusively as the culminating product of “hundreds of years of Christian anti-Semisitm” and that narrative goes largely unquestioned.

Why am I bringing all this up?

Because I have noted over the years that among the Christian Zionist movement (particularly in the German-speaking churches in Europe) there are many who feel the need to apologize to Israel and the Jewish people for centuries of Christian anti-Semitism in general and the Holocaust specifically. This is appropriate and necassary for many people, and it must also be said that many Jewish people in Israel and around the world believe that they are owed an apology from Christians for the Holocaust and for the many pogroms and incidents of anti-Semitism which occured over the centuries.

So these apologies and acts of contrition often lead to healing and the breaking down of barriers and that’s all to the good.

However, it can also lead to some things which are not good, including the essential neutering of the Gospel message and even the adoption of Dual Covenant Theology, which as I’ve said many times is just as much of a lie from the pit of Hell as Replacement Theology is.

When I hear a pastor from Germany or Austria say that every time they feel an urge to share the Gospel with a Jewish person, they remember that their father or grandfather was in Hitler’s military and they’re overwhelmed with guilt so they don’t feel like they’ve got any moral authority to continue, I can sympathize with that. I know it’s not a simple issue.

But how on earth have we gotten to the point where a pastor from Canada or the Philippines or Brazil, says the same thing? How have Christians from these countries, which are not in Europe and whose forefathers not only didn’t participate in the Holocaust but fought against the Nazi regime and its allies, become convinced that they are so covered in guilt and shame because of the Holocaust that they have no standing to say anything about spiritual matters to a Jewish person?

In plain language brothers and sisters, if you feel the need to apologize for the Holocaust than do so, but don’t apologize for the Gospel and/or your own existance as a Christ-follower. 

Remember what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16; For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

This, and many other passages in the New Testament tell us, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jewish people need to accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus in order to escape the judgement of a Holy God for their sins just as much as non-Jewish people do. So do not let the fact that these passages of Scripture have been used over the centuries to generate contempt for the Jewish People which has led to horrible violence and crimes against them, including the Holocaust, dissuade you from believeing in and acting upon them. The fault for these misinterpretations does not lie with the New Testament, which is the Word of God. It lies with those who, under the influence of Satan the Devil, took these passages out of context, twisted them and used them for Satan’s purposes.

In Jesus’ encounter with Satan after His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, Satan used the words of Scripture to try to trick Jesus into sinning. It should not be any surprise to anyone that he continued to use this method to deceive people and is still doing so right up to the present moment.

Finally I would like to call attention to a salient fact that seldom gets discussed anywhere. 

Nazism was a political movement as well as an economic, military and cultural movement, but before any of that it was a spiritual movement. It was a movement which was undergirded and powered by pagan and demonic forces in the spiritual realm.

On the occasion of the allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt both addressed their citizens over radio and urged them to join in prayer to the God of the Bible for victory over the forces of Nazi tyranny. Even before that, the movies produced in the US and UK during WWII, designed to motivate the population to fight and work for victory, were filled with characters praying in the name of Jesus Christ.

Something that was understood back then, but which has largely been forgotten, even in the Church, was that as Ephesians 6:12 says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Brothers and sisters, if you’re worried about the direction taken by political, cultural, economic or social forces in the country where you live, the most important thing you can do to push back is to pray about it. That’s more important than leaving comments on Facebook posts, or arguing with strangers on the internet, or even calling your elected representatives or going to a protest rally or whatever.

These are the thoughts I felt compelled to share with my readers on this Holocaust Memorial Day. I hope they blessed someone.