Aaron David Fruh

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Christians Have an Obligation to Remember

In her book People Love Dead Jews, Dara Horn reminds us, “For the record, the number of actual ‘righteous Gentiles’ officially recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum and research center, for their efforts in rescuing Jews from the Holocaust is under 30,000 people, out of a European population at the time of nearly 300 million—or .001 percent.” The majority of Europeans at this time were baptized Christians. Hence, the number .001 percent shows that during the Holocaust, when Jews were being rounded up into cattle cars and transported to the death camps, far too many Christians were indifferent to Jewish suffering.

There is a scant historical record in occupied Europe of any local congregation—Catholic or Protestant—or church denomination, for that matter, that worked to save Jews from certain death in the crematoriums. One exception is the small French Huguenot congregation in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, that rescued 5,000 Jews. For the most part, however, Christians showed no empathy or mercy.

Tragically, history is repeating itself today. Since October 7, I have received numerous calls from Christian friends who tell me the pulpits of their churches and the faculty at Christian colleges are silent about the massacre of Jews in southern Israel. One pastor, having been asked if he would be willing to open the doors of his church for a gathering of Christians and Jews to mourn the loss of over 1,200 innocent Jews killed by Hamas and pray for the safe return of 250 Jewish hostages, responded by saying his church’s program schedule had no openings and next time if he received more notice he might be able to accommodate such an event. But how can one give “more notice” about a surprise terrorist attack?

Christian theology instructs us to show empathy towards those who have suffered: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We are also told, “Grieve with those who grieve” (Romans 12:15). Both the Psalms and the Prophets proclaim God obligates Himself to retain the memory of Jewish suffering. Psalm 9:12 tells us that “God remembers those who suffer; He does not forget their cry,” and Psalm 23:4 proclaims that God was with the Jewish King David in tragic circumstances: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” And, let us not forget Psalm 56:8, which so beautifully tells us how God remembers Jewish pain: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 34:18 comforts us by reminding us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” while Isaiah 63:9 assures us that when Jews suffer, God suffers: “In all their affliction He [God] was afflicted.” These verses highlight the importance of commiserating with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and they underscore the fact that God grieves when his people experience anguish.

Because God obligates Himself to remember the suffering of His chosen people, should not Christians do the same? If God mourns the loss of innocent Jewish lambs who perished in the Shoah, should we Christians not join Him? Empathy is a sign of a true Christian. Christianity’s historical indifference to Jewish pain has radically altered the heart of much of the Christian faith and could potentially eviscerate its identity. A church that has lost its identification with Israel is loveless and anemic. For Christianity to regain any semblance of authority in its message, it must start with the age-long rejection and jealousy of the Jewish people that has led to its heartless indifference to Jewish pain.

Franklin Littell addresses this issue in his book The Crucifixion of the Jews—The Failure of Christians to Understand the Jewish Experience:

“Christians must draw the knife on their own Antisemitism for the sake of the truth, not to save the church but for the love of Jesus of Nazareth and his people. There remains far too much cunning and calculation, even among Christians well-disposed toward the Jews. . . . As a matter of fact, the relationship of Christendom to the Jewish people has been so wretched for so long that a number of outspoken Jewish leaders say frankly that they expect nothing and desire nothing from the Christians except that they keep their distance. We must earn our way back to the right to build a bridge, and that requires a flood of fraternal and loving actions of which we have so far proven quite incapable . . . we need each other to be sure, but we Christians need Jewry first. The Jewish people can define themselves in history without Christianity. Christians cannot establish a self-identity except in relationship to the Jewish people—past and present. Whenever Christians have attempted to do so, they have fallen into grievous heresy and sin.”

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, may Christians obligate themselves to the memory of the individual Jewish lives erased in the Holocaust—a tragedy that would have never happened without the willing complicity of baptized Christians involved in the murders and the indifference of those Christians who remained silent. May Christians join in solidarity with the God of Israel, who stands in mournful solidarity with His people—the Jewish people—in their pain. As we have seen, the Bible not only encourages this—it requires it.

In her book One, By One, By One—Facing the Holocaust, Judith Miller encourages us empathetically to draw near to the Jewish people by remembering the Holocaust:

“What fosters memory of the Holocaust? Essentially, any intellectual tool, any mechanism, any tradition that reduces its abstraction will do so, any way of making individuals and peoples and nations remember that before the Holocaust was a national and international catastrophe, it was a family tragedy and individual loss. History books and education are important. But my memory of a single infant’s leather shoe encased in glass at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is as powerful.

Abstraction is memory’s most ardent enemy. It kills because it encourages distance and often indifference. We must remind ourselves that the Holocaust was not six million. It was one, plus one, plus one. . . . Only in understanding that civilized people must defend the one, by one, by one, can the Holocaust, the incomprehensible, be given meaning.”

The abstract must be made concrete, and we can do so only by ensuring that in whatever corner of the world we inhabit—in whatever sphere of influence we hold—we must foster an awareness of the singular, individual experience. In other words, we must put faces to what has become, sadly, faint traces.

About the Author
Aaron David Fruh is a Research Fellow at The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) and the President of Israel Team Advocates, whose mission it is to change the growing anti-Israel narrative on college campuses. Aaron is the author of five books including The Casualty of Contempt: the alarming rise of Antisemitism and what can be done to stop it (editor), and Two Minute Warning: why it’s time to honor the Jewish people before the clock runs out. Aaron has written for The Jerusalem Post and The Algemeiner.
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