What was the Holocaust ?
Each year British society is invited to observe
27 January as Holocaust Memorial Day.
This date is the anniversary of the liberation of the
Auschwitz camp by the Soviet Army on 27 January 1945. In Hebrew the
stem of the word Holocaust (olah) means 'burnt offering' and burnt
offering is translated into the Greek of the New Testament as
holokautoma (o]lokautwma). There have been implications in the past
that using the very word 'holocaust' or 'burnt offering' for the
atrocities of the Second World War could infer that the Jews were
sacrificed on behalf of the rest of the human race, thus almost
legitimising terrible acts of genocide. For this reason many Jews
prefer to use the word Sho'ah to describe the murder of the Jews and
other so called minorities during the Second World War. The word
Sho'ah simply means desolation, destruction or catastrophe.
During the war it is estimated that 2 million Jews
were killed by the Einsatzgruppen troops in the Soviet Union, 3.5
million Jews were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Chelmno,
Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka, and half a million Jews died in the
ghettos of Eastern Europe of reprisal attacks, hunger, disease, and
exhaustion. 6 million in all. Millions more Gypsies, Slavs, Russian
POW's, the physically and mentally disabled, homosexuals and others in
minority groups perished.
The Holocaust Memorial Day was proposed to commemorate
not just the Holocaust or Sho'ah, but also to acknowledge the repeated
occurrences of genocide, such as Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, and to
renew the commitment of the British people to combat racism,
anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.
On Holocaust Memorial Day we pray for those who died
when madness ruled the world and evil prevailed on earth. If we
forget, the way is prepared for yet more holocausts, yet more Sho'ah.
Therefore we must never forget.
Isaiah too was familiar with the concept of mass deportation. The
reference to the Galilee of the Gentiles refers to the time of mass
deportations under the Assyrian Emperor Tiglath Pileser. His plan was
to exchange populations, moving new groups into depleted areas. It is
this same Galilee in which Jesus preached about a new kind of freedom,
the good news of the Kingdom 700 years later. In recalling and
repenting of past evils they laid the foundation for a new covenant
relationship with God. Through Jesus they found wholeness, healing and
At a time when the events of 11 September 2001 and their repercussions
are still fresh in our minds the need for wholeness, healing and
restoration have once again been emphasised. Whatever the creed, race,
colour or religious beliefs of individuals, Jesus entrusts that work
to His people. The Holocaust Memorial Day reminds us of dark time
times when even survival was not possible for many. It also reminds us
of the piercing light of God, shining through His Son Jesus, which
will never be extinguished. It reminds us of a resilience of faith
which is beyond our understanding. Sam Cappleman
Web Links and Resources
Israel National Holocaust Memorial Centre: http://www.yadvashem.org.il
The Holocaust World Resource Centre: http://www.hwrc.org
Holocaust Links: http://web.macam98.ac.il/~ochayo/linke.htm
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, The Holocaust Centre:
First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out - because I
was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out - because I
was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out - because I was
not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Pastor Niemoeller, in prison and concentration camp for eight and a
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead.
Let us surround our worship and our community with stillness,
stillness to remember all those who died in the Holocaust; those
before or since whose lives were brought to an end by genocide, and
those still suffering or dying. Amen
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland - Remembering Genocides
Our Father, forgive all our misdeeds and wipe away our sin, for you
are great and compassionate; your mercy knows no bounds. Amen
Rabbi Lionel Blue
Father, in your love you have brought us from evil to good and from
misery to happiness. Through your blessings give the courage of
perseverance to those who have been called and justified in faith.
Grant this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
May the Lord guide your hearts in the way of His love and fill you
with Christ like patience; may He give you strength to walk in newness
of life and to please Him in all things; may Almighty God bless you,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen