Articles and Presentations

70 years ago – Reflecting on 1945 from the vantage point of 2015

Eisenhower reported, “I visited every nook and cranny.” It was his duty, he felt, “to be in a position from then on to testify about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief … that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.”i

2015 is a special year of commemoration; on January 27, we recalled the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and in May 2015 we commemorate the liberation of Europe, indeed the world, from the Nazi war criminals. May 1945 is forever etched in our minds as a time of a great victory. It was this victory, which with finality opened the gates of the concentration camps and extermination sites. A disbelieving world now saw first hand the horrors that had been perpetrated. Following these horrors, in the immediate post-war period, it was understood that anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews, had led to this situation. As a logical consequence of this understanding, anti-Semitism became a taboo, something you would not openly confess to. It is therefore puzzling that today, 70 years later, anti- Semitism is clearly visible in the very nations that fought against it in 1945. As an Israeli newscaster said, if the Holocaust was a vaccination against anti-Semitism, the vaccination is no longer strong enough. The worry one feels when seeing these developments relates to the Jewish communities around the world and their position in the nations. There is however, also a larger question of history and memory; is it true that history repeats itself because we choose to forget? In this particular context the very essence of human life is at stake because we either ignore or remember the ultimate evil: the Holocaust and genocide.

The United Nations’ definition of genocide was published in 1948 after the horrors of WWII, and in many ways it relates directly to the Holocaust. The Holocaust in its vastness happened recently; it was an extreme genocide with the intention of murdering the entire Jewish population of Europe. The UN says: “Genocide is a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings; such denial of the right of existence shocks the conscience of mankind, … and is contrary to moral law and to the spirit and aims of the United Nations.”ii The statement defines the act of genocide but the act is only one part of it. Genocide is defined more specifically as the intent to annihilate a group based on their religion, race, national or ethnic identity. The definition goes further in stating that the intent to destroy the ability of a group to exist, or destroying their political and cultural leadership or their culture is the equivalent of genocide. Genocide is defined as a crime against humanity and thus it is contrary not only to the “spirit of the United Nations” but to the human spirit of which we all are a part. Naturally to a believer such a crime, clearly preceded by contempt for human life, is unthinkable.

Genocide or mass murder raises many difficult moral questions; many of these will forever remain without answers. The murder of six million Jewish people is too large to comprehend but so are other, post- Holocaust, murders. As assumed in the Nuremberg war trials the guilt of the defendants was this: “They (the defendants) conducted deliberate and systematic genocide – viz., the extermination of racial and national

groups – against the civilian populations of certain occupied territories in order to destroy particular races and classes of people, and national, racial or religious groups, particularly Jews, Poles, Gypsies and others.iii It is the intent, the deliberate character and the targeting of a specific group that sets genocide apart from other crimes.

Learning about the Holocaust is assumed to sensitize us to discrimination and hatred targeting groups at our own time. The question is if we have indeed identified the issues we need to face? Do we face them as a community or as individuals? Let us consider the Holocaust and the extremely small number of Christian communities, which acted as such against the persecution. Most of the rescuers of Jews were individuals. How effective is an individual response vis-à-vis genocidal ideologies? Our helplessness is evident in our individualized ineffective response even now. We are not speaking up but rather are behaving like silent bystanders – just as the large majority of people did at the time of the Holocaust.

Looking around us, it is clear that anti-Semitism is rising at an alarming rate and at the same time, as Christians, we see our brethren persecuted in many places, most notably in the Middle East. Whilst all of this is going on, many of us may feel that it is simply overwhelming. It is easier to be silent than to confront these issues. The problem is that silence is a choice. One of the clear universal meanings of the Holocaust is that silence will always help the perpetrator but never the victim of persecution. If this is true, then by being silent we are choosing to help the perpetrator. Clearly, that is not what we should be doing.

Remembrance is essential to God, and we need to combat the rising tide of evil, which goes against history and memory – as Eisenhower predicted.

Dr. Susanna Kokkonen

i United Nations General Assembly Resolution 96 (I


Oxford English Dictionary “Genocide” citing Sunday Times 21 October1945; Raphael Lemkin


Genocide American Scholar, Volume 15, no. 2 (April 1946), p. 227

By Dr. Susanna Kokkonen: The Holocaust, Anti-Semitism and Israel

Over 70 years after the end of WWII we can clearly identify and see two opposing trends existing at the same time: first, the unprecedented closeness between Jews and Christians but on the other hand, a return of hatred.

We need to stand together against the forces of darkness.

Anti-Semitism always existed in different forms and to some extent all of them are still relevant today. We all know the traditional Christian anti-Semitism, which accused Jews of killing Jesus and therefore deserving a punishment. To this was added the idea that Jews had done a very poor job as God’s Chosen people and therefore deserved to be punished.

During the Enlightenment, as societies became less religious and more secular, so-called socio-economic envy became a dominant form of anti-Semitism. This was an accusation that the Jews had engineered changes in society and added to their power. An accusation of disloyalty to the society was a prominent idea.

Racial anti-Semitism, at least partly a result of ideas such as evolution and survival of the fittest became an added component of anti-Semitism.

The Holocaust was a product of all of these: Nazi anti-Semitism was what we call Genocidal anti-Semitism

The Holocaust is unique and of course has the backdrop of WWII where almost the entire globe was involved. In terms of the total number of victims, over 50 million people were killed worldwide as new weapons of destruction were tested and civilian suffering was planned for and intended. Civilians were targets of both military operations and murder actions among which the Jews occupy a specific place.

This group is different from other groups. Only the Jews were targeted for complete annihilation and no escape route was left to any of them. Their murder was executed by organized mass transports to the East and once they arrived to murder places these were real industrial plants where everything was prepared. The whole administration of a modern state served the goal of mass murder. But perhaps even more importantly, their murder happened in what we like to call “a universe like ours”. Six million Jews were murdered in a planned and precisely executed manner.

There were two simultaneous war-fronts: one that was military and the one against the Jews, as evidenced especially at the end of the war. Thus when we speak about Nazi anti- Semitism, we speak about what we call Genocidal anti-Semitism. There was no place for the Jews in Nazi worldview and the existing genocidal anti-Semitism made an abstract concept of genocide a practical possibility.

Since the liberation, we have seen the State of Israel re-born in 1948 but the question is if this did solve the problem of anti-Semitism? If the dispersal of the Jews among the nations was the problem, then the re-birth of the State of Israel would be the solution. But in actuality since then, the State of Israel has become a major and precise target of anti-Semitic attacks. Therefore, it can be argued very reasonably that anti-Semitism has proven itself to be a unique hatred. This means that to a large extent there is no solution to this issue.

Hatred is alive – all we can do is to learn from the specific case of anti-Semitism.

One example of the transfer of ancient anti-Semitism to the Jewish State is the use of ancient anti-Semitic symbols that now purposefully target the Jewish State.

There is some kind of “European preoccupation” with the State of Israel. Some researchers argue that there is a concerted European effort to impose a form of discipline on the State of Israel or to punish it for its imagined or real crimes and lapses.

One example of an anti-Semitic campaign against the State of Israel is the BDS movement. BDS as a term applies to one specific boycott campaign and that is the political campaign conducted against Israel by leftist radicals and Palestinian activists, who are increasingly seeking to enter the mainstream society. The movement of boycotting Israel started its rise in the UN 2001 World Conference in Durban, which was extremely hostile to Israel; in 2005 it was officially established by various Palestinian activists. The movement describes itself as non-violent struggle against Israel’s policies however its goals are estimated by experts to be more sinister. May feel that BDS advocates for ending Israel’s existence as a national state of the Jewish people

BDS is seeking punitive measures against the State of Israel, and Israel is its only target in the Middle East. Yet Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the numbers of Christians are growing; it is the only country that does not appear on the Watch List for persecution either. So how do we explain it that many times churches have been active partners and initiators of actions in this regard? Why is Israel the target of the BDS movement and why are they not fighting for the Christians, who are being persecuted?

Connection to church

When the Church is taught that God’s promises to the Jewish people are allegorical, it follows that those blessings are now transferred to the Church. If that is taught, how do you explain the miraculous re-birth and continued existence of the modern State of Israel? If God has forgotten about the Covenant, it is a practical impossibility that the Jewish people would have returned to the same area, speaking the same language and following the practices of Judaism, as they were followed by Jesus in His time. So from this theological misreading of the Scripture it follows that the State of Israel is first said to be just like any other Western State; its enemies are just enemies of any state; finally, it is an illegitimate state.

It is also the only country boycotted by a number of organizations and institutions including churches and Christian groups. Again, this happens at the same time, as there is a growing persecution of Christians going on in the nations around Israel.

It is possible that we have returned to a “While the world was watching” moment – in other words, whilst social justice is seen as something that means fighting the only state in the Middle East that is protecting its Christians, Christians are being massacred with no attention whatsoever from their sisters and brothers in the West.

Inability to make connections between different events means lack of discernment. It is not that we do not know, it is not that we cannot find out; it is that we are focused on ourselves at a time, which demands a response. So this is then a call for moral clarity in our time.

We have to have a response.