FOR CHRISTIANS AND ALL PEOPLE OF COMPASSION WHO REMEMBER 1933 – 1945,
EVEN IF THEY WERE NOT YET BORN
There is a divine dream which the prophets and rabbis have cherished and which fills our prayers and permeates the acts of true piety. It is the dream of a world rid of evil by the grace of God as well as by human effort by dedication to the task of establishing the kingship of God in the world… God is waiting constantly and keenly for our effort and devotion.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
This Memorial Service is an initiative of THE COUNCIL OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS (New South Wales) INC. The Service was originally designed by Sr Verna Holyhead a Sister of the Good Samaritan Congregation, a long time worker for Jewish-Christian relations and former member of the Executive of the NSW Council of Christians and Jews.
THE GATHERING IN SILENCE
We gather here tonight in silence, surrounded by a holy presence, a cloud of witnesses…We gather here before each other, and our one Father: to remember; to ask pardon; to commit ourselves to peace; to rekindle hope in our one humanity – the hope which flickered in the dark catastrophe, the Shoah of the years of 1933-1945, when European Jewry was consumed in fire, and shouted to the world in silent pain.
God is not silent; God is Silence said a holy rabbi. There is creative silence, and there is murderous silence. Out of the silence and darkness, the creative word of God was spoken, and God's spirit brooded over watery chaos to make possible the goodness of creation.
PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD OF GOD
LECTOR 1 : Gen 1:26-28
Then God said, Let us make humankind in our image in the likeness of ourself: and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky and the cattle and over all the animals of the earth and over all creeping things that creep on the earth. And God created humankind in hisimage, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and increase and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that creeps upon the earth.
ALL: Blessed and praised be God, to whom all praise is due.
LECTOR 2: Gen 1: 29-31.
And God said, See, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. And to all animals of the earth and to every bird in the sky and to everything that creeps on the earth in which there is living breath I give every green plant for food. And so it was. God saw all that he had made and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
ALL: Blessed and praised to God, to whom all praise is due.
LECTOR 3: Gen 2: 1-3.
The heavens and the earth were finished with all their array. And on the seventh day God finished the work which he had been doing, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work which he had done. And God blessed the seventh day and pronounced it holy, because on it God rested from all the work he had done in creation.
ALL: Blessed and praised be God, to whom all praise is due. Pause for silent reflection
But there can be another kind of silence, and another kind of wind:the silence of our world and century, when the catastrophic whirlwind, the Shoah, ripped six million branches from the olive tree of Israel. Reduced to ashes, this holocaust eddied, swirled and fell over the graveyard of a continent.
In memory of these six million Jews, among them one million children, let us light six candles: one candle, one million burning lives… As we watch these six consuming flames, let us commit ourselves to responsibility for one another, Jew and Gentile, that together we may build a world that has no room for the hatred which has found too large a place within the hearts of Christians.
One by one, six members of the assembly come forward to light the memorial candles.
The words which are based on the great profession of faith which was on the lips of the so many Jews as they went to their death, are now echoed by the assembly.ALL: Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.
You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The Lord our God, is Lord is one.
The hot breath of the Holocaust was also felt by the righteous Gentiles who helped their Jewish brothers and sisters in their hour of darkness, and by those other millions, of so many nations who died for being different in a time of madness and of terror, for them we also light the candles. Together let their memory burn.
Two members of the assembly come forward and light the seventh and eighth candles.
Acknowledging in ourselves the power of sin that made possible the horror of the Holocaust let us now pray Psalm 51:
NARRATOR 1's SIDE:
Have mercy on me, God, in your steadfast love;in your great tenderness, blot out my faults.Wash me thoroughly from my guilt and purify me from my sin
NARRATOR 2's SIDE
For I recognise my faults,And am ever conscious of my sin:I have sinned against you alone, And have done evil in your eyes so that your sentence is justified and your judgement righteous. Indeed, I was born guilty,And in sin did my mother conceive me.
Indeed your long for truth in the inward being teach me wisdom about secret things. Purify me with hyssop till I am pure; wash me till I am whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness,let the bones you have crushed exult. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my guilt.
O God, create in me a pure heart,And a right spirit renew within me. Do not cast me out of your presence,And do not take your holy spirit from me. Give back to me the joy of your salvation And encourage in me a willing spirit.
I will teach transgressors your ways,and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodshed, O God O God, my deliverer, And my tongue will sing forth your righteousness.
Lord, open my lips,And my mouth will declare your praise. You do not want me to bring sacrifices;You do not desire burnt offerings; True sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; O God, a broken and contrite heart you will not despise.
Show your favour graciously to Zion; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in righteous sacrifices,burnt and whole offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
The whirlwind could not be taught; it could only be experienced. The Holocaust could not be explained;it could only be offered.And we, who are neither experienced nor ffered,can only try to touchand feel and taste the dark and burning nights as we listen to the witnesses…
Darkness… Fire… Exodus… Return… Jews have lived these experience from genetion to generation. let us listen to the witness of the voices..
Voices speak out of the Shoah to bear witness.. the children's voices, the voices of the hope of Israel:
A pause for silence.
(Pavel Friedman, aged 11, Theriesienstadt, 4th June 1942).
The last, the very last,
So richly so brightly, dazzlingly yellow,
Perhaps as fif the sun's tears wold sing against a white stone…
Such, such a yellow,
Is carried lightly 'way up high,
It went away, I'm sure, because it wished
to kiss the world goodbye.
For seven weeks I've lived here,
Penned up in this ghetto.
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me,
And the while chestnut candles in the court,
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live here,
In the ghetto.
(Copyright Artia Foreign Corp, the Czech Republic.)
Pause for silent reflection
RESPONSE TO THE VOICES
The Taize melody is sung thrice by the assembly
Kyrie, Kyrie, Kyrie Kyrie Eleison.
Voices speak out of the Holocaust to bear witness… The voices of the wheat of Israel grown to maturity, harvested in smoke and ashes:
I SAW A MOUNTAIN
(Adapted from the poem by Moses Schulstein)
I saw a mountain..Not in a dream.
It was real.On this world this mountain stood.
Such a mountain I saw – of Jewish shoes in Majdanek.
Such a mountain – such a mountain I saw.
And suddenly a strange thing happened.
The mountain moved…
And the thousands of shoes arranged themselves
By size – by pairs – and in rows – and moved.
Hear! Hear the march.
Hear the shuffle of shoes left behind -that which remained
From small – from large – from each and every one.
Make way for the rows – for the pairs
For the generations – for the years
The shoe army – it moves and moves.
We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are the shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers.
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam.
And because we are only made of stuff and leather
And not of flesh and blood, each one of us avoided the hellfire.
We shoes – that used to go strolling in the market
Or with the bride and groom under the wedding canopy,
We shoes from simple Jews, from butchers and carpenters,
From crocheted booties of babies just beginning to walk and go
On happy occasions, weddings and even until the time
Of giving birth, to a dance, to exciting places to life ….
Or quietly – to a funeral.
Unceasingly we go.
The hangman never had the chance to snatch us into his
Sack of loot – now we go to him.
Let everyone hear the steps, which flow as tears,
The steps that measure out the judgement.
I saw a mountain I wish I had not seen.
Voices speak out of the Holocaust to bear witness… The voices of the survivors those
who passed through death to life. And in a sense the voices of us all for whom the Holocaust
has put an end to a certain kind of innocence; all of us carry the responsibility of
I DID NOT MANAGE TO SAVE
I did not manage to save a single life, I did not know how to stop a single bullet and I
wander round cemeteries which are not there. I look for words which are not there. I run to
help where not one called to rescue after the event I want to be on time even if I am too
Jerzy Ficowski (Translated by Keith Bosley & Krystyna Wandycz in Holocaust Poetry. Compiled by Hilda Schiff p.119)
Pause for silent reflection
RESPONSE TO THE VOICES
All sing: Kyrie Kyrie Kyrie Eleison (2)
Voices speak out of the Holocaust, voices of those who for years could not speak because their lips were sealed with memory and silence…
READING FROM NIGHT
by Elie Wiesel
One day when we came back from work we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around us; machine guns trained: the traditionalceremony. Three victims in chains – and one of them the sad-eyed angel. The SS seemed more preoccupied than usual. To hang a young body in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lip. The gallows threw shadows over him.
This time the Lagerkapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. Long live liberty! cried the two adults. But the child was silent.Where is God? Where is He? someone behind me asked.At a sign from the head of the camp the three chairs tipped over. Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon the sun was setting. Bare your heads! yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping.
Cover your heads!
Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive.
For more than half-an-hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony before our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed.
Behind me I heard the same man asking, Where is God now?
And I heard a voice within me answer him: Where is He? …Here he is – He is hanging there on this gallows…
(From Night by Elie Wiesel, pp. 76-77. Melbourne (Penguin) Copyright Les Editions de Minuit, 1958. Used with permission)
Pause for silent reflection.
RESPONSE TO THE VOICES
All sing Kyrie Eleison(3)
Voices speak out of the Holocaust – too few, so softly, voices that echo in the mist and cry with eloquence to the skies. Remembering a lost love…
THE SUN OF AUSCHWITZ
You remember the sun of Auschwitz and the green of the distant meadows, lightly lifted to the clouds by birds, No longer green in the clouds, but sea green white. Together we stood looking into the distance and felt the far away green of the meadows and the clouds'seagreen white within us, as if the colour of the distant meadows were our blood or the pulse beating within us, as if the world existed only through us and nothing changed as long as we were there. I remember your smile as elusive as a shade of the colour of the wing,a leaf trembling on the edge of sun and shadow, fleeting yet always there.
So you are for me today, in the seagreen sky, the greener and the leaf-rustling wind.I
feel you in every shadow, every movement, and you put the world around me like your arms. I
feel the world as your body, you look into my eyes and call me with the whole world.
Tadeusz Borowski (Translated by Tadeusz Pioro. Holocaust Poetry. Compiled by Hilda Schiff, p 119.)
All sit – at this point a speaker will address the assembly.
Pause for silent reflection
RESPONSE TO THE VOICES
All sing: Kyrie Kyrie Kyrie Eleison.(2)
RECITATION OF MOURNERS' KADDISH
This is the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. It is not a funeral hymn, but rather an affirmation of God's everlasting presence and dominion, and a praise of his creative love. In this spirit, we pray it for the victims of the Holocaust.We also pray for the survivors whose faith in life enabled them to rebuild their shattered lives in Australia and in other lands.
(During the prayer the names of some of the death camps and ghettoes will be proclaimed)
And now, I pray you, let the power of the Lord be great, according as you have spoken. Remember, O Lord, your tender mercies and your loving kindness; For they have ever been of old.
ALL: Magnified and sanctified be his great name in the world he has created according to his will.
May he establish his kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel and say you, Amen.
ALL: Let the Lord's great name be blessed for ever and for all eternity.
Blessed, praised and glorified, exalted, extolled and honoured, magnified and lauded, be the name of the Holy One, blessed be he; though he be high above all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; And say you, Amen.
ALL: Let the name of the Lord be blessed from this time forth and for ever more.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life for us all and for all Israel; and say you, Amen.
ALL: My help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.
He who makes peace in his high places, may he make peace for us and for all Israel; and say you, Amen.
Let us pray to God, the Father Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus Christ.
1. Most High and Holy God, you delivered the three young men from the blazing furnace. In these our times, deliver all people from the fires of persecution and violence. Lord, hear our prayer…
R. Lord hear our prayer.
2. Creator and Sustainer of life, as Christians we have been buried with your Son in baptism, to rise with him to new life. May we also bury our lack of understanding of your Jewish people, from whom Jesus sprang, and our prejudices towards them…
R. Lord hear our prayer.
3. God of steadfast love and kindness, help your people, Israel, to trust in the love of their Christian brothers and sisters, and make all Christians faithful to that love. Lord, hear us.
R. Lord hear our prayer.
4. O merciful God, humbly acknowledging among us here present the power of sin that made possible the horror of the Holocaust, we ask you pardon for the past and your grace for the future.
R. Lord hear our prayer. NARRATOR 1
Let us now pray in the words that Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.
THE CONCLUDING RITE
As we come near to the end of our service let us recite together, as an act of faith the words found on the walls of a cellar in Cologne where Jews hid from Nazis:
I believe, I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when feeling it not. I believe in God, even when God is silent.
In the face of this faith, let us bring forward the candle of hope: hope that NEVER AGAIN will any nation or people be carried away in such a catastrophic whirlwind as the Shoah.
A ninth candle is now brought forward through the assembly to represent the hope that NEVER AGAIN will any nation or people be carried away in such a catastrophic tempest as the Shoah.
(In front of and facing the assembly, the bearer holds up the candle high and proclaims:)
So, from the Shoah we learn that when we deny humanity in others, we destroy humanity within ourselves; when we reject the human, and the holy, in any neighbour's soul, then we unleash the beast and the barbaric in our own heart. And since the Shoah, we pray that if the time has not yet dawned when we can all proclaim our faith in God, then let us all admit, at least, that we are not all powerful in ourselves. If we cannot yet see the face of God in others,
THEN LET US SEE, AT LEAST, A FACE AS HUMAN AS OUR OWN. DOWN THE GENERATIONS, THE HOLY SCRIPTURES TEACH THAT LIFE MIGHT BE A BLESSING OR A CURSE; THE CHOICE IS IN OUR HANDS.
(Based on a benediction delivered in 1987 by US Navy Chaplain Arnold E. Resnicoff, at the National Civic Commemoration for the Days of Remembrance in the US Capitol rotunda).
In presence of these candles, and before we go our spearate ways, let us offer to each other a choice for life and a sign of reconciliation. Turn to those around you, reach out a hand of friendship, and wish to one another “”Shalom”””Peace.””
“”SHALOM – PEACE.””
Contact: Marianne Dacy email@example.com