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The purpose of Holocaust Remembrance Day is not only to pay tribute to the victims, but to learn what made an evil of such magnitude possible--and to prevent it from ever happening again. Yet this is precisely what we have failed to learn.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we are urged to memorialize the millions who suffered and died in the Nazi concentration camps. The purpose is not merely to pay tribute to the victims, but to learn what made an evil of such magnitude possible--and to prevent it from ever happening again.
Yet this is precisely what we have failed to learn. The rise of Nazism is often attributed to such non-fundamental factors as the resentment produced by the Versailles Treaty or the despair generated by the Great Depression. Or, if we are given a fundamental, ideological explanation, we are told that the Germans had embraced too much capitalism and individualism.
The actual cause of Nazism was ideological--but exactly the opposite ideology. Nazism flourished because of its ethics of self-abnegation and self-sacrifice. Hitler himself stated the moral foundations of Nazism: "It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance. . . . This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise for every truly human culture. . . . The basic attitude from which such activity arises, we call--to distinguish it from egoism and selfishness--idealism. By this we understand only the individual's capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men."
Historians usually dismiss such statements. The idea that self-sacrifice is synonymous with virtue is too uncontroversial for them to connect to Nazism. Thus, such pronouncements are usually regarded as mere window dressing to disguise the Nazis' true agenda.
But what if this view is wrong? What if it was precisely the Nazis' most virtuous-sounding slogans that unleashed their evil on the world?
Consider the full, logical meaning of altruistic self-sacrifice. It means, not benevolence toward others, but servitude. If sacrifice to others is the essence of virtue, how can anyone be allowed to pursue his own goals and happiness? If the community needs money, it is the individual's duty to sacrifice his earnings. If society decides that certain ideas are dangerous, it is the individual's duty to sacrifice his beliefs. And if the nation decrees that certain individuals are dangerous, then they must be sacrificed. The needs of the collective, not the interests and the rights of the individual, become the standard of right and wrong.
Under such a philosophy, no one can complain when the Nazis freeze workers' wages--the nation needs less costly tanks. No one can speak out when Hitler arrests his political opponents--the nation needs greater unity. And no one can resist when the Jews are tortured and murdered--the nation needs Aryan purity. As Leonard Peikoff writes in The Ominous Parallels--a study of the philosophic similarities between America today and pre-Nazi Germany: "The opponents of Nazism were disarmed; since they equated selflessness with virtue, they could not avoid conceding that Nazism, however misguided, was a form of moral idealism."
Most people avoid these stark implications by retreating to a compromise between self-sacrifice and self-interest. Calls for sacrifice are proper, they say, but should not be taken "too far." The Fascists condemned this approach as hypocrisy. They took the morality of sacrifice to its logical conclusion. They insisted, in the words of Italian Fascist Alfredo Rocco, on "the necessity, for which the older doctrines make little allowance, of sacrifice, even up to the total immolation of individuals."
And the Nazis certainly practiced what Rocco preached. A central goal of the concentration camps, wrote survivor Bruno Bettelheim, was "to break the prisoners as individuals, and to change them into a docile mass." "There are to be no more private Germans," one Nazi writer declared; "each is to attain significance only by his service to the state." The goal of National Socialism was the relentless sacrifice of the individual: the sacrifice of his mind, his independence, and ultimately his person.
A free country is based on precisely the opposite principle. To protect against what they called the "tyranny of the majority," America's Founding Fathers upheld the individual's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The implicit basis of American government was an ethics of individualism--the view that the individual is not subordinate to the collective, that he has a moral right to his own interests, and that all rational people benefit under such a system.
Today, however, self-sacrifice is regarded as self-evidently good. True, most people do not want a pure, consistent system of sacrifice, as practiced by the Nazis. But once the principle is accepted, no amount of this "virtue" can ever be condemned as "too much."
We will not have learned the lessons of the Holocaust until we completely reject this sacrifice-worship and rediscover the morality of individualism.
About the Author: Mr. Tracinski is a fellow, writer, teacher and analyst with the Ayn Rand Institute and speaks regularly at conferences and on college campuses about the philosophy of the late novelist Ayn Rand.
When the world's power brokers get together to plan the future borders of the Middle East, there is little evidence to suggest that they are consulting the Bible.
Diplomats from the so-called "quartet" - the U.N., the European Union, Russia and the U.S. - are pushing hard for their "road map" to Middle East peace. But there are two very different road maps for Bible believers and the international community.
The quartet's road map calls for an end to the violence against Israel, and a Palestinian state within two years. But the violence hasn't ended, and the proposed state would be in the heart of biblical Israel: the lands of Judea and Samaria.
In the diplomatic minefield of the West Bank, nearly every town and neighborhood has its roots in Bible times. The Arab city of Nablus is the Jewish town of Shechem, home of Joseph's tomb. The Palestinian stronghold of Bethlehem is the Jewish city of David and the birthplace of Jesus. And Jerusalem is the Holy City, mentioned hundreds of times in scripture.
When the world's power brokers get together to plan the future borders of the Middle East, there is little evidence to suggest that they are consulting the Bible.
Elon Moreh is in the heart of biblical Samaria. It is the place where the Lord made a covenant with Abraham thousands of years ago, to give this land to him and his descendants forever.
In the Genesis account, the Lord promised to Abraham's descendants, Israel, the land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. Bible scholars differ about the lines of the exact boundaries. But it is clear that the biblical borders of Israel include all of what is now called the West Bank, the land earmarked by the quartet for a Palestinian state.
Reuven Berger is a messianic pastor who works and prays for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs. He says there is no provision in the Bible for a Palestinian state.
"Very simply, if we look into the scripture, we will find no such reality, no such promise. The scripture speaks of the promise of the land to the people of Israel, and a restoration that God will bring forth, physically and spiritually," Berger said.
Berger says it should not be a surprise that the international community is so focused on the Holy Land. He said, "Man and the whole Babylonian world system is going to absolutely try and find a human solution to bring peace to the Middle East, because they understand that this is the heart of the whole world issue. But actually they're going to have to deal with God. Because, first of all, God says it is His land."
The diplomatic push for a Palestinian state has gained strong momentum since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. For months, President Bush has promised such a state if the Palestinians, under new leadership, stop their violence against Israel and enact democratic reforms. He has also made it clear what Israel must do.
On March 14 of this year, Bush said, "The government of Israel, as the terror threat is removed and security improves, must take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable and credible Palestinian state, and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end."
Most of the 200,000 Jewish residents in the West Bank - Judea and Samaria - would disagree with President Bush's contention that they live in occupied territory.
Miriam Fox, a resident of the Alon Shvut community, said, "Whenever people talk about the Bible, they kind of sound like religious fanatics. But at the risk of sounding like one, the Old Testament is very clear that this piece of real estate belongs to the Jewish people, that it's an everlasting inheritance."
Eve Harow, a resident of Efrat, said, "I think it's really unconscionable to think that Jews should once again be transferred out of Judea and Samaria."
Harow says for many Palestinians, the state of Israel is the real issue. "They have yet to accept not just the fact that Jews live in Judea and Samaria, they have yet to accept the fact that there are Jews in the Middle East, because that's really what this is all about. And all you have to do is look in their websites and their textbooks to see that their maps of the Middle East say Palestine in place of Israel, not next to Israel. It's not about Judea and Samaria. It's about the right of Jews to have a state of our own in this part of the world," she said.
But after decades of pressure on successive Israeli governments, even some leaders who helped build the Jewish communities in the West Bank now say they have resigned themselves to a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is one such leader.
In an April 13th interview, Sharon told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz: "We are talking about the cradle of the Jewish people. Our whole history is bound up with these places - Bethlehem, Shiloh, Bethel. And I know that we will have to part with some of these places. As a Jew, this agonizes me. But I have decided to make every effort to reach a settlement. I feel that the rational necessity to reach a settlement is overcoming my feelings."
But that is not enough for many Palestinians, who learn from the time they are in pre-school that all of Israel is the land of Palestine. Leaders of Hamas and other terrorist groups vow to fight the road map and any other proposal that would keep Israel in charge of the land.
Hamas co-founder Abdel Aziz Rantisi said, "I believe that we are going to escalate our resistance, because the resistance in Palestine (is) representing the hope of the nation."
The Palestinian terrorist groups have tried to make good on their threats. Israeli security forces fielded more than 60 threats of terrorist attacks during the Passover holiday, and at least 10 were arrested for planned suicide bombings. Still, the Bush administration's road map partners - Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - want a faster timetable for a Palestinian state. But the quartet has been slow to explain what it would do to keep terrorists from killing Israelis.
In the meantime, Israelis who believe the Bible's promises for the land, say they are looking to the author of the scriptures.
Efrat resident Yacov Coblentz said, "The Jewish people couldn't possibly have settled the land of Israel; the Jewish people couldn't possibly have survived so many wars without Divine help. We were getting it the whole time. We'll get it (bezat hashem), we'll get it forever. If we pray properly, we'll get it." Reuven Berger said, "God has a plan. He has a plan of blessing. He has a plan of peace. And you cannot bypass Israel. Israel is at the heart of that plan. And that's why the nations, in their hatred for Israel, they are depriving themselves of the very blessing that God has for them."
Mahmoud Abbas is the new Palestinian prime minister. But for now, Yasser Arafat is still in the driver's seat.
Don't get your hopes up yet for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian president, has allowed the new prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, to form a governing cabinet. And Abbas's emergence represents a shrinking of Arafat's authority. But Arafat has lost only a bit of his power. He retains a virtual veto over any steps Abbas may want to take, plus the right to fire Abbas at any time. Which means that the chief Palestinian impediment to peace, Arafat, is still in a position to impede.
Let's review Arafat's recent record. At Camp David in 2000 and again at the White House in January 2001, Arafat was offered generous terms for a settlement, including half of Jerusalem, nearly 100 percent of the West Bank, a dramatic reduction in Israeli settlements, and a land bridge between Gaza and the West Bank. Some of Arafat's aides favored acceptance, but he said no to President Clinton and Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, and then brought on a new intifada and a string of suicide bombings in Israel.
This militant refusal led to Ariel Sharon's victory over Barak in the ensuing Israeli election and, in June 2002, to President Bush's decision to halt any American dealings with Arafat and to urge his removal from power. The new Bush policy weakened Arafat, who was forced to name a prime minister, Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen). But the negotiations over Abbas's cabinet show that Arafat remains powerful.
The cabinet crisis occurred after Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair announced last month that a so-called road map of directions toward an Israeli-Palestinian accord would be released after Abbas and his cabinet were sworn in (which may happen next week). The road map was produced by the "quartet" of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia.
Abbas succeeded in getting Arafat to accept Muhammad Dahlan as a top security official in the cabinet--Dahlan has been publicly critical of Arafat. But Abbas was forced to accept three of Arafat's allies to top positions, men Abbas had hoped to relegate to minor posts.
Abbas himself is often described as a moderate, at least relative to Arafat. He has said that the intifada begun by Arafat in 2000 was a mistake. The question now is what Abbas will be able to achieve. He gives the Palestinians a figure to meet with American officials who won't deal with Arafat. Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to confer with Abbas when he travels to the Middle East as early as next week.
Despite the 3-year timetable in the road map, results are more important than deadlines. For Abbas, this means at the outset cracking down on Palestinian terrorists--the Al-Aksa Brigades, Hamas, Islamic Jihad. If he succeeds--if Arafat doesn't undermine his efforts--then Israel will be under pressure to make concessions. Sharon has already indicated a willingness to reduce Israeli settlements on the West Bank. If Abbas fails in suppressing terrorists, no peace is possible.
Will Arafat allow a serious crackdown? Will he give Abbas a free hand in negotiating with the Israelis? Will, in fact, Arafat permit any steps by Abbas that would reduce his own power? Arafat's record suggests the answer is no to these important questions.
But he didn't want to name a prime minister or compromise on a cabinet, either. He relented under pressure from two sources that usually don't hold him accountable: Egypt and the Europeans. Tony Blair is a key figure here. If only to appease the Labour left, he's been kindly disposed toward Arafat, in effect legitimizing him. Now's the time, however, to legitimize Abbas and let Arafat go. Otherwise, the road map won't matter and Arafat will be free to block peace once more.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
I write this letter for two reasons; first and foremost I want to genuinely say to my Jewish friends and acquaintances, those I work with, those who live in my community and those both near and afar that I don't know, simply, I'm sorry. As a follower of Jesus (Yeshua) my heart is grieved by the guilt of Christianity towards the Jewish people. I am truly sorry. Secondly, it is my sincere hope that Christians who are willing to open their hearts to the truth will “hear” this letter and be forever changed by it.
My personal journey began several years ago with a trip to Israel. It was there that I realized that Yeshua (Jesus) was a Jew and that my heritage as a believer deeply rooted in Israel and her people. I wondered, how had Jesus become blond, blue eyed and very non-Jewish? Later, while in Brownsville Florida, I purchased a book with an intriguing title, Our Hands are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People”, by Dr. Michael Brown. I read the book and my heart was torn from me, I wept. Many questions followed. However, the most troubling was, why have I (we) never been told? How could something so horrific be silenced for so long? My search for answers began. I wanted to know more. What I learned follows.
In the first century Ignatius of Antioch proposed the theory that the Church is the New Israel, suggesting that the Jews had lost it forever. Later Constantine declares that Israel no longer belonged to the Jewish people, instead the Christian Church. The early church saw Judaism as a threat, thus the beginning of the creation of a non-Jewish Jesus. Next the Jews were accused of killing “God” Himself. Justin proclaims the “tribulations (perhaps the destruction of the temple in 70 AD for one) were justly imposed upon you, for you have murdered the Just One.” Later Christian theologians Hippolytus and Origen supported this theory and subsequently it became predominate in Christian thinking.
Other noted Christians, such as Chrysostom, denounced the Jews calling them the “most miserable of all men…lustful, rapacious, greedy, perfidious bandits….inveterate murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil (a theme oft repeated by the church in the centuries to follow) debauchery and drunkenness have given them the manners of the pig and lusty goat.” The same Church Father later pronounced that for the Jew there is “no expiation (atonement) possible, no indulgence, no pardon….their “odious assassination of Christ” was the beginning of all their woes.
Christianity became officially recognized under Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. As a result theology was woven into government and the Synagogue came under its control. Justinian abolished Jewish religious and civil rights. In the seventh century Byzantine Emperor Heraclius began the first of the forced baptisms of the Jews, which was to be repeated in many places in the centuries to come.
The Crusades resulted in the murder of approximately a quarter to one-third of the entire Jewish population in Germany and Northern France. Crusaders, singing Christ, We Adore Thee, held their crosses aloft while burning 969 Jews to death, who had locked themselves in the main synagogue in Jerusalem. The Crusaders believed they were avenging the death of Christ. It has been reported that as they ran over the “mutilated bodies of those slaughtered their leader quoted Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Over the centuries the Jews have been made the scapegoat for numerous things. One Pope blamed them for a hurricane and an earthquake. When the Black Death broke out in Europe the Jews were held responsible allegedly having poisoned water wells. The result: over 200 Jewish communities throughout Europe were destroyed, more than 10,000 killed in three German towns alone. Thousands others were killed because of fabrications accusing them of killing Christian children before Easter for ritual purposes. Jews were claimed to have “desecrated the sacred elements in Holy Communion.” In Prague in 1389, Jewish children accidentally sprayed a Priest, who was carrying a wafer host, with sand resulting in the massacre of 3000 Jews.
Jews were made to wear distinctive dress, with a distinctive mark imposed on their clothing, as early as 1215 in many countries. These badges of shame, made infamous in Nazi Germany, marked them as social outcasts, subjecting them to physical and verbal abuse.
Forced baptism of the Jews was common throughout the centuries. Some 50,000 Jews died in a riot in 1391 instigated by an archdeacon's preaching. Many of the Jews who were baptized forcibly continued to practice their former faith secretly. They were called marranos, meaning swine. Jews have been expelled by almost every country they have resided in. Ferdinand and Isabella expelled all Jews from Spain in 1492 to “consolidate” their Christian realm. Nearly 300,000 fled to Portugal where they were permitted to stay, enslaved, later to be freed but “brutally and forcibly baptized.”
Jewish suffering was considered “entertainment” at pre-Lenten carnivals. In medieval Rome the “weakest member of the Jewish community would be thrust naked into a nail-spiked barrel and rolled down the hill to his death, his fellow Jews forced to watch his martyrdom.” On other occasions, Jews were made to run naked through the streets of the carnival, in the icy cold and rain, to be pelted by the crowds with mud.
Sadly, even the great reformer Martin Luther in the tract Concerning the Jews and Their Lies (1542) wrote: “Firstly, their synagogues should be set on fire. Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds. Fourthly, their Rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more. Fifthly, passport and travelling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews. Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from usury. Seventhly, let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the axe, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle, and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses. We ought to drive the rascally lazy bones out of our system. Therefore, away with them.” In a sermon later given Luther called for the immediate expulsion of all Jews from Germany. Luther's anti-Semitic teachings were applied literally in the Third Reich.
In 1648 Eastern Orthodox Cossacks from Ukraine destroyed Poland and singled out the Jews for special treatment. “Some were flayed alive and their skins were tossed to the dogs as meat. Others were severely wounded and then thrown onto the streets. Others were buried alive. Babes in their mother's arms were stabbed to death. Large numbers of Jewish children thrown into the water in order to make the fords more level.” In the following ten years some 100,000 to 500,000 Jews were murdered, and 700 communities destroyed.
In 1819 one German pamphleteer proposes “massacres, castrations, and consignment of Jewesses to prostitution.” In Russia, Nicholas I forced Jewish youths, beginning at age 12, to serve in the military for as much as 25 years. Russia's first major pogrom (from Webster: an organized massacre of helpless people; specifically such a massacre of Jews) started at Easter 1881. This effort to “solve” the Jewish “problem” resulted in mass emigrations, and death for countless Jews. Czar Nicholas II regarded the Jews as “Christ-killers”.
In Nazi Germany Hitler claimed that he was “only doing the work of the Catholic Church.” Following a model established hundreds of years previously the Nazis reprinted Martin Luther's anti-Semitic writings. Kristallnacht, the night of the burning of the synagogues in Germany was chosen in honor of Luther's birthday. Individual Christians attempted to stop the extermination of the Jews, the Church generally did not. A papal ambassador, when asked to intervene replied: “There is no innocent blood of Jewish children in the world. All Jewish blood is guilty. You have to die. This is the punishment that has been awaiting you, because of that sin.” Governments allowed few Jews to escape the horror of Holocaust. Canada and America would not change their strict immigration policies. A refugee turned away by the British was subsequently torpedoed and all but one of the 769 Jews on board perished. The world's apathy moved Nazi informers to report to Hitler “You can do what you like with the Jews, nobody wants them.”
In 1135 French scholar Pierre Abelard, perhaps unknowingly yet aptly, describes the plight of the Jew: “No nation has ever suffered so much for God. Dispersed among all nations, without king or secular ruler, the Jews are oppressed with heavy taxes as if they had to repurchase their lives everyday. To mistreat the Jews is considered a deed pleasing to God. Such imprisonment as is endured by the Jews can be conceived by the Christians only as a sign of God's utter wrath. The life of the Jews is in the hands of their worst enemies. Even in their sleep they are plagued by nightmares. Heaven is their only place of refuge.”
Now that you have heard you must decide. Have we as Christians failed to be hope for the Jewish people? Have we failed to love without condition? Have we failed as Mother Basilea Schlink (a German nun who wrote Israel, My Chosen People) has observed to have our hearts “ache to see this chosen people of God wandering through the centuries, wretched, despised, shunned, ostracized, and afflicted with pain like the suffering Servant of God in Isaiah 53? Is one of our greatest failures as Christians that, as written by Edward Flannery priest and historian, “the Jewish people did not find in the Christian churches an ally and defender but one of their most zealous detractors and oppressors?”
I have decided. I am genuinely sorry and I repent before God. I can only ask for the forgiveness of the Jewish people. I choose to stand at the side of my Jewish Lord and Master Yeshua and see His people, the chosen of God, “with His eyes, full of love and mercy.” Yes, with God's help I will stand with the Jewish people. I will love them with all my heart, share in their suffering, weep as they weep, and rejoice as they rejoice and I will pray for them and the peace of Jerusalem.
Chris M. Poole
"Nazism, Stalinist communism, and radical Islam are, to be sure, different from each other, but they also have a certain similarity: all three aim, or aimed, at exclusive control over the world, all three oppose or opposed all expressions of democracy, and all three attacked Jews, though in different ways and with different grades of extremism."- Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Academic Advisor to Yad Vashem, 8/8/2002 - Full Speech
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