The Holocaust

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Col. 1:4

For the older generation – Baby Boomers who were born at the end of WWII – this was one of the saddest episodes in human history.  It was an attempt at genocide of the Jews in Germany, Poland and areas controlled by Nazi Germany. Over 6 million Jews were killed in extermination camps.  That was 2 of every 3 Jews in Europe.

On my first family trip to Germany in the early 1980’s, we visited Dachau, the first of one thousand concentration camps. They were created in 1933 by Adolph Hitler when he became Chancellor of Germany.  It was a sobering experience, one which I will never forget. 

Several years later while visiting Israel with Jewish friends, we toured Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. It was moving and instructive at the same time. The wife of our Jewish friend who accompanied us is now a Docent at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

The DC Holocaust Museum has an Encyclopedia of Holocaust information. It describes the Holocaust as a “systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators”.  It goes on:

“The Nazis, […] believed that Germans were ‘racially superior’ and they wanted to create a ‘racially pure’ state. Jews, deemed ‘inferior,’ were considered an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.”

Over the years, there have been denials that the Holocaust happened.  Those, unfortunately, have crept into social media.  The CEO of Facebook suggested said that he didn’t think deniers of the Holocaust were “intentionally getting it wrong.”  That comment is hard to imagine in light of the existence of gas chambers pictured above. Those are not a mirage. 

Because the next generation get their information from social media, it comes as no surprise that they are largely uninformed.  About 1 in 10 young adults in America think that Jewish people caused the holocaust, or that it didn’t happen, or they aren’t even sure it took place according to a recent survey

That may be bad enough, but a shocking 50% of millennials and Gen Z reported seeing Holocaust denial or distortion posts online.  63% of all those surveyed did not know that six million Jews were murdered and 36% thought that less than two thousand Jews died. 

Two thirds of millennials in America don’t know what Auschwitz was and half of Americans believe that the Holocaust could happen again.  Seventeen per cent could not name a concentration camp or ghetto (there were 40,000 of those in all).

Why is this important?  Well, lots of reasons, but the main one is that it shows a tragic failure of the education system to teach accurate history in our school systems.  Edmund Burke is quoted as saying that “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

We are seeing an attack on our foundations and history at unprecedented levels, including the teaching of Critical Race Theory and curriculum based on the 1619 Project. What is clear is that it shows how quickly our foundational knowledge can be lost, and once lost, replaced by “terribly skewed or mistaken things” according to Ralph Emory White

Which brings me to Christianity.  Gen Z is the first generation to have been brought up in a post-Christian era, certainly in the U.S. “They are not simply living in and being shaped by a post-Christian cultural context. They do not even have a memory of the gospel,” according to White.

This has huge implications for Christianity.  If they don’t know about the Holocaust, they certainly don’t know that the Nazi party stood for “National Socialist Germany Workers Party” and that socialism has a sordid history. And if they don’t know about the Jewish people killed in the Holocaust, they have no chance of knowing about a Jewish man who lived 2000 years ago.

Our challenge is to reach across generational boundaries and walk beside the next generation. Their views on history and religion are shaped by social media, not history or the bible. As such, it may be too much to ask them to read history books, but not too much to develop a relationship with a mentor. 

They may not remember history, so it is up us to pass it on to the next generation. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: One area to explore with your mentee is his or her knowledge of history. To the extent that it is weak, you can provide simple resources to build up what our school systems have left out.

FURTHER READING:

Dachau Concentration Camp  History.com

Social Media’s Denials of the Holocaust is No Mistake – they are Hate Speech The Hill

New Survey Shows Ignorance of Holocaust  

First State by State Survey of Holocaust Knowledge Claims Conference

Generation Z, the Holocaust and the Bible – White

US Holocaust Museum Website

WORSHIPGraves into Gardens – Elevation Worship

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