Eli Wiesel’s original account of the suffering he endured during the Holocaust that would later become the book, Night, was first published in Yiddish under the title, And the World Was Silent. For the most part, the world is still silent when Jews Suffer. In the present wave of terror in which Jewish innocents’ lives have been taken from them and from their loved ones, there is little said in world media. No empathetic concern. Scarce remorse or pity. The world, it seems, continues to embrace its age-long pattern of indifference to Jewish pain.
One of the great tragedies of the Holocaust was not just that culturally sophisticated Germans reasoned that shooting, torturing, and gassing six million Jews was an act of righteousness, or that Europeans under the occupation willingly and often gleefully turned in their Jewish neighbors to the S.S., but that running parallel to the genocidal rage of the perpetrators was the indifference of the bystanders – those who did nothing to stop the carnage. Those who remained silent, indifferent to Jewish bloodshed. This too was a great tragedy.
So, how many individuals interfered with evil in order to protect Jews during the Holocaust? The tragic number is .001. This number represents the percentage of the 300 million Europeans who lived during the Holocaust which means there were only 30,000 courageous righteous rescuers from the nations- a number recognized by the Holocaust research center at Yad Veshem. .001 is the tragic number of indifference. Will our generation be held responsible for the same indifference? Elie Wiesel said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” He was right, of course. In a courtyard outside of the crematoriums at Auschwitz is a plaque inscribed with a quote by British historian Sir Ian Kershaw which reads, “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference. He too was right.
What is behind the world’s indifference to Jewish suffering? The answer is complicated but a 2019 Church of England document, God’s Unfailing Word – Theological and Practical Perspectives on Christian-Jewish Relations, sheds light on the issue. The document states, “Regarding the Jewish people as collectively guilty of rejecting (Christ) made it natural for generations of Christians to regard Jewish suffering as divinely willed punishment.” This false doctrine of deicide (the Jews murdered Christ) has been so deeply ingrained in western culture for 1,700 years that it is natural (in the words of the Church of England) to view Jewish pain as divine punishment and consequently makes the world apathetic and indifferent to the terror regularly inflicted on the Jews. The word indifference is defined as, “Absence of compulsion to or toward one thing or another.” If in the collective world’s conscience, Jewish pain is purposely inflicted by G-d, why would someone be compelled to interfere with the divine will? This is the underlying reason – whether conscious or unconscious – behind the world’s indifference to Jewish agony.
Today in America, for example, there are 150 million people who identify as Protestant and 75 million people who identify as Catholic for a total of 225 million Christians. This means to reach the minimal threshold of the righteous from the nations during the Shoah – .001 percent, there would need to be 22,500 Americans like Oskar Schindler and Corrie Ten Boom active in Jewish advocacy willing to stand in harms way in order to protest the growing violence against the Jews. That would be 22,500 empathetic people who speak out when Jewish people are harmed – the righteous protecting the righteous. Sadly, I don’t think we are even close, and our combined efforts must reach far beyond .001, otherwise we fall prey to the tragic indifference of the past and we will be known as a generation void of both righteousness and moral clarity. The clock is ticking.
Purging 1,700 years of a deeply intrinsic misconception (Jewish pain is an act of G-d) from the worlds belief system will not be easy. The Jewish people for millennia have been the protectors and bearers of G-d’s righteous and moral law. If Christians truly value G-d’s righteousness they will defend the womb of that righteousness – the Jewish people – come what may. In a prayer composed by Pope John XXIII shortly before his death he said, “We realize now that many, many centuries of blindness have dimmed our eyes, so that we no longer see the beauty of Thy Chosen People and no longer recognize in their faces the features of our firstborn brother. We realize that our brows are branded with the mark of Cain. Centuries long has Abel lain in blood and tears, because we had forgotten Thy love. Forgive us the curse which we unjustly laid on the name of the Jews.” I hope his prayer is answered and the many centuries of the world’s indifferent “blindness” toward Jewish “blood and tears” will come to an end.