This past Sunday, April 11, was Holocaust Remembrance Day. My wife and I listened to the Focus on the Family radio program each morning this past week as David Faber recounted his harrowing experiences as a Jewish teenager in Nazi-occupied Poland. I have read stories and books on the Holocaust, so I am not unfamiliar with the atrocities perpetrated on Jews during World War Two.
More recently I was able to make a couple of visits to Israel where I visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. “Yad Vashem, the national Authority for the Remembrance of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, was established in 1953 by act of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to commemorate the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the years 1933-1945. The Authority also commemorates the heroism and fortitude of the Jewish partisans and the fighters in the Ghetto revolts, as well as the actions of the "Righteous Among the Nations" (non-Jews who saved the lives of Jews).”
The Hebrew words, Yad Vashem, come from a verse out of Isaiah 56:5, "And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial... an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." The Hebrew word for “memorial” is yad, and the word for “name” is vashem. It is therefore fitting that the Memorial is situated on the Hill of Remembrance, and the main building of the Holocaust Memorial is called the Hall of Remembrance. Both times that I visited Jerusalem I made the pilgrimage to this place of remembrance. It is an emotionally-charged experience to walk from section to section, each section depicting a location in Europe where Jews were interred in concentration camps. Many old photos are displayed of the faces of those who were wantonly killed because they were simply guilty of being Jewish. It is a sad testament of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.
David Faber lives in San Diego and continues to share his story of the holocaust. He tells how he and his family were hunted down by the Nazis until they were all killed, except David. His older brother, Romek, was working with the underground. In an attempt to get his younger brother to safety, they were caught and tortured by the Nazis. A hot poker iron was jammed into Romek’s eye, and then his tongue was ripped out of his mouth with tongs. He was kicked repeatedly with heavy military boots until he was dead. They then turned on David, giving him the same treatment until one of the Nazis stopped and said, “He’s too young to know anything.” They unceremoniously dumped him in the road where he was left for dead. Friends found him and carried him to a home where he was nurtured back to health. Soon after, his mother, father and five of his six sisters were machine-gunned in front of him by Nazi soldiers. This is all recorded in his book, Because of Romek.
Later he was again captured and sent to nine different concentration camps. In these camps he was tasked with opening the cans of poison that would be sprinkled on the Jews who were forced into the showers. He then was required to go in among the dead bodies and extract all the gold teeth and fillings and give it to the Nazis. In one instance he discovered a baby very much alive and feeding on its dead mother’s breast. Because the baby had been sucking, it had not breathed in the poisonous gas. He attempted to pass the baby along to some women in the camp, but was caught by the Nazis. They told him to throw the baby into one of the furnaces. He couldn’t bear to see harm done to the baby, so he pleaded for its life. After repeatedly ordering him to throw the baby into the fire, a soldier finally ripped the baby out of his arms and threw it into the furnace.
I have shared these gruesome details for a reason. Despite the fact that no less a personage as General Dwight D. Eisenhower witnessed these death camps with their ghastly furnaces filled with incinerated bodies, there are those today who claim the Holocaust never occurred. Eisenhower ordered that there be pictures and reports made of what they discovered in such places as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, Treblinka, and many of the other horrid camps where Jews and those who helped them passed into eternity.
The ruler of Iran, Ahmadinejad, has made it very clear that he believes the Holocaust never happened. In addition I ran across a White Supremacist web site that called into question whether the Holocaust ever took place. They also glorify Adolf Hitler on this site. It is appalling to see the hatred some people have for others.
This is why I thank God for his sacrificial act of love in sending Jesus to address the sin problem in the human race. It is because of such awful acts like those I’ve written about that I have hope – hope that God will one day right all the injustices in the world.
But just as we have observed Easter Sunday on April 7th when we of the Christian faith celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, we would do well to also remember that unless our hearts are made right with God, every last one of us is capable of repeating the horrors of the Holocaust. That is what sin is capable of.