Christians Remember the Shoah


Shoah, the Hebrew word for “”Holocaust”is the term applied to the cold blooded and systematic destruction of six million Jews by the Nazis during Word War II, a process that began in 1933 and continued for twelve years. Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe was given the code-name of “”The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.”In the course of implementing this plan, not only Jews, but those considered to be inferior members of society such as the mentally ill, gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents, and countless others were also eliminated, in the insane purge to create a super race. Some Christians were also killed.

Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of the Shoah, there are revisionist historians who strive to deny that it ever occurred, and many Christians remain indifferent. Alan Berger, the well known American Holocaust historian once said that whatever happens to the Jewish people is a paradigm of what will happen to the rest of the world. Racial cleansing or genocide is not a thing of the past, as we well know, and the rise of virulent forms of nazism and racism continues to cause untold suffering and distress, posing a threat to the survival of nations.

Jews remember the Shoah on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) on the 27th of Nisan in the Jewish Calendar. Christians should remember the Holocaust in a spirit of deep repentance. It is Christian responsibility to resist such a horror ever occurring again, especially considering the long bitter two thousand year history of anti-Jewishness, fuelled in no small way by the manner in which the Christian Gospel has been promulgated. Christians are invited to join in solidarity with Jews in remembering this event. Let us listen in silence to their suffering, and have the courage to face the darkness within our churches and Christian traditions which continues to make the Holocaust a dark night of faith for Jews and Christians alike.

Churches are encouraged to include a prayer in the service on the nearest Sunday to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Commemoration Day). The forgoing explanation could be adapted for use as a press release.

We have Memorial Services for Christians available. It is suggested that such services be adapted for use in churches at about the time of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which falls after the end of Passover (or shortly after Easter Sunday in the Western Church calendar)

A Memorial Service, originally composed by Sr Verna Holyhead SGS, for the Council of Christians and Jews, New South Wales, has taken place in Sydney since 1991, and is now held in Melbourne, and Canberra.

It is suggested that the service be kept simple, and be held in a beautiful but austere and religiously “”uncluttered”setting. A single violin or cello is most appropriate for the musical accompaniment to the lighting of the memorial candles and the ””candle of hope.”A concluding chorus could be a vigorous piano or organ accompaniment. The Shema may be sung unaccompanied by cantor and assembly, or with whatever insrumentation is considered suitable.

At the front of the worship space, the altar or table is dressed in black and white: black for the darkness of the Shoah, the catastrophic tempest which blew six million Jews to their death during the years of the nazi regime, from 1933-1945; white for the Jewish liturgical colour of holiness and atonement, and as a reminder of the white shroud of burial. A yellow star of David attached to the black drape calls to mind the command of Hitler that all Jews must wear this badge, in various colours and syles, on their outer garments.

Eight matching candles stand on the table: six will burn for the six million Jews who died: one will burn for the non-Jews who lost their lives during those years: and the eighth candle will honour the Righteous Gentiles who, in those dark days, risked their lives for the sake of their Jewish brothers and sisters. A  ninth candle, the “”candle of hope””, will be added to these, as indicated in the service.

In some celebrations of this service, another moving symbol has also been placed with the candles: a small clay urn containing earth from one of the death camps – a memorial of the earth which, in so many places, was sanctified by the blood of so many martyrs during those tragic years.

This particular service is an appropriate model, with the realization that particular communities and groups may wish to add or subtract aspects of the celebration, or substitute other readings and songs.

If members of the Jewish community wish to attend, it is important that they be warmly welcomed, and assured that the varying degree to which they opt to be either spectators or participants is truly respected by their Christian brothers and sisters.