By Charles Gardner —
As we approach the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht – a foretaste of the Holocaust to come which should have been a wake-up call for Europe – it’s surely time to learn the lessons we failed so miserably to comprehend then.
A 25-year-old article written by an eyewitness of that fateful Night of Broken Glass has re-awakened my spirit to some deeply disturbing signs that not much has changed – even among evangelical Christians. The article came to my attention well before the latest outrage broke out with the Hamas slaughter of October 7th.
Fritz Voll, the source of my earlier piece on the German Pentecostal Church’s complicity in the Holocaust through supporting Hitler’s race laws of the late 1930s, was just eight years old when he watched the burning of a synagogue diagonally opposite his home in Arnswalde.
He was totally unaware of the plight of the Jews, but later became an ardent campaigner for righting the wrongs of antisemitism, especially among his fellow Christians.
Describing his parents as evangelicals with a Pentecostal leaning, his family attended the German Pentecostal Church which, he said, was an “outgrowth of the Holiness movement from England”.
As I pointed out previously in A Shocking Revelation, this church passed a resolution in 1938 essentially backing Nazi plans to deport all Jews from the country, though this was well before the ‘Final Solution’ came into effect.
As a Pentecostal myself, I was particularly shocked to learn of this because more should be expected of people claiming to have experienced a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit.
In an article entitled “Autobiographical reflections on the night of November 9, 1938, and beyond,” published on the Jewish-Christian Relations website, Fritz asked: “Where were the Christians of Germany? Only very few even prayed for the Jews. During all my childhood I never heard a single prayer for the Jewish people in the evangelical churches we attended…
And when we did not see them anymore because they were sent to their deaths in the camps, why did we not notice?”
He also wrote: “In Sunday School and in church we were only taught about the Jews of the so-called Old Testament and about those that were supposedly responsible for the death of Jesus and his followers.”
I am deeply troubled by this, not because I have never heard these questions before, but because I see so little change in attitude, although there are some positive signs, with many newly concerned over the plight of Jews in the UK and elsewhere. But in general terms – and I have experienced evangelical and Pentecostal churches in the UK over 50-plus years – the German church scenario described above is what I still see in Britain.
The international Holocaust Memorial Day which our former Prime Minister Tony Blair so helpfully introduced, is a perfect opportunity for Christians and others to stand with the Jewish people who have given us so many spiritual blessings. But each year when it comes around on January 25th, the day in 1945 when Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, I don’t even hear a reference to it in church, let alone a prayer.
And yet our local (secular) council once marked the occasion by organizing an event in support of our small Jewish community. There were a few individual Christians there, but church congregations seem to think it has nothing to do with them, thereby deepening Jewish mistrust of the gospel Christians claim to care about.
Fritz Voll also recalled an occasion in 1984 when he was speaking at the inauguration of a newly-built Orthodox synagogue – in Canada, I believe, though the location wasn’t clear. The venue was filled to capacity, though without a single representative of the 300-plus Christian congregations in the city.
He wrote: “When I think about the stories I have heard from Jewish survivors (of the Holocaust), I wonder how I can survive as a Christian, how Christianity can survive, if it does not repent its age-old anti-Judaism.”
Significantly, he recalled his parents mentioning that, in addition to the codeword for violence against Jews (i.e. Kristallnacht), there was another codeword for violence against Christians (Reichssternennacht – Night of the Stars). But he never managed to ascertain whether this was indeed the Nazi plan – to go after the true Christians once they’d finished with the Jews.
Yet today we witness all too clearly how Islamic fundamentalists (who cooperated with the Nazis) are as much opposed to Christians as they are to Jews. Is it not time we stood squarely with Jesus’ brothers in the flesh in their hour of need?
For he will surely say: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
But those who failed to help them would suffer eternal punishment (verse 46). Christians, wake up!