At sixteen, after reading a particularly dark Primo Levi novel, a question occurred to me that I could not answer: how did Europe, a predominantly Christian society, justify the murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust?
I didn’t know much about Christianity at that tender age. But I was aware that Silent Night was originally sung in German. Surely Germans considered themselves Christian as they gassed and burned the Jews?
I tried to flesh out the logic that would make sense of this seeming conundrum. Murder is against the Ten Commandments. Europeans were actively complicit or looked the other way as the Jewish population of Europe was willfully exterminated.
Meantime, Europeans went to church each Sunday no doubt, or at least at Christmas and Easter. How could they justify their behavior as they dressed in their Sunday best, sang from their hymnals, and prayed to their god in their houses of worship?
Did they feel right with themselves after services? Did they feel cleansed—absolved for at least another week?
Is this how Europe fiddled while its Jews were gassed and burned? Did they play at loving their fellow man: at being Christian?
I could not get the juxtaposition of these two concurrent narratives to make logical sense: the cruel murder of an unfathomable number of Jews by those professed to be bound to Judeo-Christian ethics.
So I went to the adults in my life and asked them my question. At the time, I was a student boarding in the home of one of the pillars of Detroit Jewish society, the late Fayga Dombey, who worked in social services for the Jewish Family Services in the Detroit area and who was a founder and board member of the school I attended at that time, Akiva Hebrew Day School. That day, her best friend, the late Malka Gordon, the wife of Rabbi James I. Gordon, was visiting her. They were looking after one of Fayga’s grandchildren, cooing and playing with the baby. I posed my question to them.
They looked at each other. They looked at me. And nodded.
I asked again, carefully rephrasing my question. Maybe they hadn’t realized it was a question.
I asked, “The Europeans were Christians. They had at least the outward trappings of religion in their lives: Christmas trees, church bells, and churches. How did they justify murdering 6 million Jews? Didn’t that go against their religion?”
“Aunt” Fayga had this way of smiling where her eyes sparkled but remained aloof from the smile itself. This was a mirthless smile, one that hid pain. She offered me this smile and no more while Malka just made solemn, personal eye contact with me.
Light dawned: there was no answer to my question. Not one that would satisfy logic, at any rate.
Murder While Christian
The Germans had done this thing, with all of Europe complicit. Murder while Christian.
Religion wasn’t religion, but something to be used and discarded at will, whenever it didn’t jibe with desire; in this case, an inordinate lust to flood the earth with Jewish blood.
I thought of this today as I read the news about the new EU directive issued June 30th, and reported today, on the Ninth of Av, when Jews commemorate the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, thousands of years ago—a day when we fast, abstain from wearing leather, and go into deep mourning.
The directive bars “all funding, cooperation, and the granting of scholarships, research grants and prizes,” to Israeli bodies in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
But that’s not all.
The directive also calls for further contracts between EU member states and Israel to include a clause stating that East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria are not part of the sovereign State of Israel.
“Oy! Meh haya lanu,” as we say in Kinot, the special mourning poems/dirges we read on this day. “Woe! What we had!” and now is lost.
Jerusalem is lost to us as are the biblical heartlands, Judea and Samaria. They’re all there in the bible—our bible as well as the bible of Christian Europe. These lands were given to God’s Chosen People, the Jews. They, the Christians of Europe, know this.
And now Christian Europe works with our Arab foe to take it all away from us. Christian Europe closes its eyes to its own bible, even as it continues to populate churches on Sundays, and Easter. Even as Christian Europeans sing “Heilige Nacht,” in exquisite three-part harmony on Christmas.
According to David Bedein, of the Israel Resource News Agency, the EU directive includes the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, where the last remaining vestiges of the Temple lie, in the form of one last retaining wall—the Western Wall—and the site of the Temple Mount, the Har Habayit, which Moshe Dayan ceded to the Islamic religious authority, the Wakf, in 1967, and where Al Aqsa Mosque is located. Here lies the site of much of the narrative of the Christian deity, as well, inextricably linked as it is to the Jewish Temple.
On Friday night, the beadle of our synagogue, Motti Avner, spoke about his visit to the Temple Mount with a group earlier that day. Their group was surrounded by Arabs chanting, “Allahu Akbar.”
Motti said it was,“Pachad,” “frightening.” The implication is that we are losing our grip on our holy places. We are losing our grip on Jerusalem.
Christian Europe killed most of us. Then they funded the creation of the Jewish State. To what end and for what reason? To assuage their Christian guilt? To gather us into one place to make it easier the next time they decide to off another 6 million of us or so, or to sit back and allow it to occur by proxy (Iran?). Christian Europe is ridding Israel of its Jews in the guise of fairness to Israel’s violent foe, but in reality to placate oil-rich Muslim states, by offering them the equivalent of Judas’ 30 talents of silver.
Christian Europe is slowly expelling us from the land it helped us rebuild—the only place where we truly belong.
And then where will we go?
Meh haya lanu.