The Holocaust and Uncle Moshe
The Holocaust and Uncle Moshe
by Lonnie Lane
At one time I was working in the office of one of the Messianic organizations while writing articles for their magazine. I had access to the archives of the magazine which were kept in a vault. Deep in the vault were copies of this magazine from the 1930-1940s. Shortly after WWII several articles were written by Jewish believers who had been in the death camps but were liberated before it was “their turn.” Without going into detail as to how they were able to observe this phenomenon, one person reported that a man in white robes was seen on several occasions walking among and interacting with the people in the ‘showers’ just before the gas was turned on! He would have been the only person with clothing on so as to stand out from the others as unique among them. It could only be Yeshua! He came to them in their final hour.
The other article told of how many Jews had become believers in Yeshua and estimated that approximately 10% of the Jews in the camps were saved. That means thousands. Hundreds of thousands. That means God was faithful to rescue eternally those who wanted to follow Him. Our wonderful God. Our gracious Yeshua. Our merciful Savior.
People often come to Messianic Vision with questions they haven’t found answers to elsewhere. This morning’s question was one of them. A Jewish woman is asking two profound questions: Did the holocaust mean that the Jews were no longer the chosen people? And secondly, how can she possibly dishonor her Uncle Moshe (Morris or Moses in Hebrew) who died in the holocaust by accepting Jesus as the Messiah when she knows to him it would have been a shondah, something worthy of her being counted as among the dead. That bad.
She has verbalized the heart of the Jewish people with regard to such questions. Namely, how do we interpret the Shoah, (the Hebrew word for catastrophe) in light of being the chosen people of God? And in a somewhat related conflict, many question how any Jew could possibly accept Yeshua as Messiah considering all that Jews have suffered in His name, in particular the holocaust? These issues are more than a conundrum (challenge), they are profound issues having eternal significance. I do not pretend to have the answers, but perhaps I can offer some thoughts that might soothe a Jewish soul and give understanding to a Gentile who might be of help in being a spokesperson for God on these painful issues. If we are to be One New Humanity, Jew and Gentile together, these are questions that must be addressed.
It was said rather prophetically by one of Germany’s theologians (forgive me, I don’t remember which one) following the Reformation, Woe be unto the world if the mantle of Christianity falls from the German people. The Reformation, as we know, began in Germany when a Catholic priest named Martin Luther was plagued with his own set of questions of eternal significance, 95 of them to be exact. As Jesus changed the world when He was nailed to a cross, so the world was also changed on October 31, 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 objections to the door of the church for all to see.
To Luther, his expectation was that the Jews would come to know “Christ” now that the walls of ecclesiastical oppression were down and they could enter by faith alone. But when they didn’t, he eventually turned against the Jews and began writing and speaking vitriol against them. (See Dr. Michael Brown’s, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood for examples.)
In essence, Luther laid not only the groundwork but a pattern for Hitler to later lead Nazi Germany into atrocities of destroying God’s people, a multitude of Christians included. They did so claiming to be doing the work of God by divesting the earth of Israel. In actuality, Hitler was a satan worshipper who wanted the blood of Jews to be an offering to satan. (Listen to our radio show with Ana Mendez Ferrell-6/11/07 for more on this.) It’s too horrid a thought to go into here. As satan hates God and hates what God loves, he hates the Jewish people. As salvation is of the Jews, he has wants to obliterate them from the earth, and has repeatedly tried to do so, even before Yeshua walked the earth.
But none of this has ever changed the fact that God has chosen the children of Abraham to be His own people as long as the sun, moon and stars are in the sky. (Jeremiah 31:35-36) The covenant and the call were never repealed by God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Why then, were the Jews allowed to be treated so horribly? What I am about to say in no way validates any license for the cruelty that the Jews have suffered. The simple phrase, God is good; the devil is bad, says it all. But God did warn us through Moses and the prophets not to stray from Him and His ways, and not to become like the nations around us, lest we be drawn to worship their gods. This has been likened to staying under an umbrella – stay under it and you’re protected, step out from under it and you’re exposed to the storms. Whenever Israel stepped out from the umbrella of God’s ways, they also stepped away from His protection, until they cried out to Him in repentance to be allowed back under His umbrella of love, protection and provision. His warning came from the knowledge that there is an enemy of God that would like to destroy God’s people and that the safest place is closest to Him.
Nevertheless, there arose in Germany, even as far back as the early 1800s a movement of Jews toward a more liberal and humanistic form of Judaism. They wanted to “Reform” the orthodox Judaism that seemed archaic to them, out of step with the times; irrelevant. Dr. Michael Brown explains, “In the eyes of the early Reform leaders, Judaism had to make itself relevant to an enlightened people living in an enlightened age, and rather than risk the complete assimilation of their people, a new expression of Judaism had to be developed, one that incorporated numerous changes…all of which constituted radical departures from the traditions that were considered sacrosanct by the religious Jewish community.” (What Do Jewish People Think about Jesus? Fall, 2007)
Note the concern with “complete assimilation” above. Many German Jews were more concerned with being Germans than being Jews. They wanted to fit in. The threat of assimilation was a real one. Reform Judaism was an attempt to address that. But while they kept an outward identity as Jews, in fact, they had spiritually assimilated into the values of the disintegrating morality of Germany. Reform Judaism did not (and does not today) recognize sin as a violation of the standard of holiness required by a holy God, but is based more on social issues, with every person having a “spark of the divine” in them. Today same-sex marriages are condoned and gays are being ordained as Reform rabbis. While admittedly Reform Judaism has evolved – or rather devolved – since those earlier days in Germany, still the point was that even then God’s ways were not the umbrella under which they chose to remain. And so, they were out from under the protection of God as He has warned.
Had He disowned them as His chosen people? No, never. But as He has bound even Himself into His commitment to allow us free will, as an expression of His love I might add, what came about was a culmination of a post-Reformation Germany from which the mantle of Christianity had surely fallen, meted out upon Jews, a good portion of whom had decided they found a better way than God’s.
But what about all the Jews who continued to follow God?, you may ask. When Miriam rebelled against Moses’ leadership and was banished from the camp for a time, the whole company of Israel had to stop and wait. There are numerous other Scriptural examples of the whole being affected by the few. God has bound us up in the bundle with each other to be accountable to and for each other. This is in fact an expression of His love and caring for us, not of judgment. May I emphasize, it is not God who planned the holocaust. He is not the destroyer. We know who the destroyer is. God is the God of life. Even in the midst of the gas chambers evidently God was with them, offering them eternal life in the face of a horrible death. Yeshua Himself came to them, responding to hearts that cried out to God and became their very present help in trouble, their strength and their assurance of eternal redemption.
Whatever God does, He does redemptively. Out of the Shoah He brought about the greatest coup in history over the enemy aside from the Resurrection: The re-establishment of the nation of Israel on the Land He promised to the children of Abraham. God keeps His word. The existence today of Israel is in itself proof that God still and always will count the Jews as His own treasured people. This is a miracle of enormous God-sized proportions. And He will continue to secure that homeland for them, despite attempts to rob them of it. His Word cannot fail.
Now what about Uncle Moshe? How can this Jewish woman align herself with what she believes her dear uncle never would have condoned? How could she accept Jesus when even the Nazis pretended to be Christians? The reason is an easy one to answer. Uncle Moshe knows! He now knows Yeshua is the risen Messiah, King of the Jews, Almighty God. Anyone who dies knows that because they are either in heaven with Him or not. But they know. No doubt Uncle Moshe would say to her if he could, “With all my heart I say, embrace Him for He is the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah Israel has been waiting for. It’s Him!”
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.