What happened to Messianic Jews during the Holocaust?

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By Mark Ellis –

Warsaw Ghetto, wall of separation

There was a significant move of God’s Spirit among the Jewish people prior to the outbreak of World War II, but these Jewish believers in Jesus fared no better than their racial brethren, with many perishing during the Holocaust.

“Just like the Jesus movement in the late 60s, 70s, into the 80s, there was an outpouring of the Spirit on Jewish people, particularly in Eastern Europe, between the wars, and there was tremendous growth, and many Jewish people became believers in Jesus into multiple thousands, and Poland was one of the central locations for that movement,” Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, told God Reports.

“The massive number of conversions in Poland may have been 35,000 to 40,000 in the twenty-year period before the Holocaust,” he added.

With Poland containing the largest population of Jewish people in Europe, the Nazis decided to create a walled area within Warsaw to contain Polish Jews that became known as the Warsaw Ghetto — the largest of the Nazi ghettos created during World War II.

As many as 460,000 Jews were imprisoned there within a 1.3 square mile area. From the Ghetto, Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps and mass-killing centers. “In Jewish life we call the country of Poland the largest Jewish cemetery in existence. In a sense that’s true, because Poland had over 3 million Jewish people at that time.

Family marching, Warsaw Ghetto

“It did not matter if you were a Socialist, Catholic, Protestant or Jewish Mission related Jew – as no Jewish person was exempt from the horrors of the Ghetto and the forthcoming death trip to Treblinka – if they lived long enough to make it,” Glaser noted.

Researchers believe there may have been between 5,000 and 6,000 Jewish Christians within the Ghetto, with a majority being Catholic. “Evangelicals tend to dismiss Catholics but if you don’t take the Catholics into consideration, you can’t evaluate Messianic Jewish life in the ghetto.

Warsaw Ghetto uprising

“The Catholics had two churches in the ghetto: St. Mary’s and All Saints. Then you had the Protestants, and I would say they were born again evangelicals, part of the Polish Reform Church. I spent time with a church historian of the Polish Reform Church that sits on the ghetto. There were a lot of Jewish believers at that church.”

There were also mission agency groups active in Warsaw, such as ABMJ (now Chosen People Ministries), CMJ, the British Jewish Society, and the Hebrew Christian Alliance.

Warsaw Ghetto scene

“People have said to me, my grandparents or great grandparents died in the Holocaust, how could God send my grandparents to hell without hearing about Jesus?”

But Glaser is convinced that many did hear. “The Lord is always one step ahead. Many Jewish people heard the gospel, even in the ghetto. They had worship services in the ghetto.”

He believes it was God’s mercy to bring many of his children into the kingdom before the horrors of the Holocaust unfolded.

“The ghetto was destroyed in 1943, and they met together until the destruction,” Glaser said.

Destitute boys, Warsaw Ghetto

In the summer of 1942, at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp under the pretext of “resettlement in the East.” The ghetto was demolished by the Germans in May 1943 after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings had temporarily halted the deportations. The total death toll among the prisoners of the Ghetto is estimated to be at least 300,000 killed by bullet or gas, according to the Holocaust Chronicles by Robert M. Shapiro.

Additionally, there were 92,000 victims of starvation and related diseases, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the casualties of the final destruction of the Ghetto, according to research by Yad Vashem and the Institute of National Remembrance.

Warsaw Ghetto scene

“There were incredible martyrdoms and martyr stories. Isaac Feinstein was one. Feinstein led Richard Wurmbrand (founder of Voice of the Martyrs) to the Lord, and Wurmbrand was Jewish. He was a Norwegian pietist, which was what Feinstein was. Feinstein worked for the Norwegian Israelite mission in Romania.

“Our director attempted to get Wurmbrand and Feinstein out. He went over with a pile of money in 1938, and they wouldn’t leave.”

When Wurmbrand urged Feinstein to leave Jassy (Lasi) Romania, he said: “The shepherd’s duty is to die together with his flock.  I know they will kill me, but I cannot abandon my brethren.”

“A few days after his return to Jassy,” Wurmbrand noted, “the pogrom broke loose.  The number of Jews killed was 11,000.  Feinstein was arrested.  They took him to police headquarters where he preached to those who were his fellow detainees.”

“We were a happy family.” Large picture shows Missionary Isaac Feinstein and Mrs. Feinstein with their 4 oldest children in Galatz, Roumania. The smaller picture shows Mrs. Feinstein with her 6 children in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Chosen People Ministries)

According to a survivor who later met with Feinstein’s wife, “Feinstein had preached with a loud voice and appealed to the hearts and consciences of his fellow prisoners.  They were not to have illusions about assumed deliverance, but rather should prepare themselves to meet their God.  His words made a deep impression and many talked individually to him.

“In the afternoon German soldiers came down the cellar and wanted to shoot down all Jews.  Feinstein stepped in front of them, addressed them in German and pleaded for his comrades.  They went out again.  All were amazed at the effect his words had.

“In the evening they led us into the yards of the police station.  During the early morning we were led in long lines to the railway station.  It was said that we were to be brought to concentration camps.  Feinstein was in the same car as I.  We were penned in until we could not catch a breath, and no one could move, about 140 men in one cattle car in which there would have normally been room for only forty men.

“Then doors, windows, all holes and cracks were sealed tightly and steam was introduced from below.  It was a horrible holocaust; many went insane in the screaming of the torture.  It was harrowing and heartbreaking.  From time to time the freight car was left standing for hours in the boiling heat of the sun. Terrifying scenes occurred and those of us who got away from it are haunted daily with the memory.

“Perhaps your husband did not have to suffer long,” the survivor told Mrs. Feinstein. “ He soon started to recite Psalms with a loud voice and his face was like that of an angel.  He begged the other victims to make their peace with God and to seek salvation through the blood of Christ before it was too late.  And some did before it was too late.

“He died while the rabbi was reciting the Psalms aloud, and Feinstein was explaining what they foretold about Jesus.  When death came by suffocation, his head was resting on the rabbi’s shoulder.  The rabbi himself died a few moments later—a Mosaic Jew and a Christian Jew were the victims of the same hatred.

“During the night, at a small station in the Muldau, the cars were opened and the bodies fell out.  It was supposed that all had been suffocated on this mortal journey.  But six of us men who had only been unconscious were injured when our bodies fell out, and recovered consciousness.”

 

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