UPDATED: Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. All over the world, Jews and Christians and many others are remembering the most catastrophic event in the history of modern Judaism — the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II.
Today is also the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet Red Army on January 27th, 1944.
Sadly, too many people — especially young people — don’t really know what happened. They’ve never been taught. Or they’ve not paid attention. But we must never forget. If you’re a Christian — and especially if you’re a pastor or Christian leader — may I especially appeal to you to use this year to learn more and teach more about the Holocaust, and to find ways to bless survivors, as well as to bless Israel and the Jewish people with the love of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
As readers of this blog know, I am personally making 2014 a year of both of remembering the Holocaust and sharing its history and lessons with others. This will involve releasing The Auschwitz Escape; doing radio and TV interviews about the novel and the true stories that inspired it; speaking at various schools, conferences and churches; meeting with Holocaust survivors to hear their experiences; finding ways to do more to care for survivors in Israel who are poor and needy; visiting the U.S. Holocaust Museum; visiting Yad Vashem in Israel; encouraging Christian leaders to do more to teach the lessons of the Holocaust; encouraging joint events with Jewish and Christian leaders; and using plays and books and films and other resources to teach my own four sons about what happened and why.
There are many ways you can remember what happened and to help others to remember and learn vital lessons. Here are a few possibilities:
* Watch Schindler’s List with family and friends — Use discretion with younger children, but it’s a film every person must see. “Experience one of the most historically significant films of all time like never before with the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition of Steven Spielberg’s cinematic masterpiece, Schindler’s List. Winner of seven Academy Awardsr including Best Picture and Best Director, this incredible true story follows the enigmatic Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. It is the triumph of one man who made a difference and the drama of those who survived one of the darkest chapters in human history because of what he did. Meticulously restored from the original film negative in pristine high definition and supervised by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List is a powerful story whose lessons of courage and faith continue to inspire generations.” (Amazon description)
* Read The Hiding Place or watch The Hiding Place film with family and friends — “Corrie ten Boom was a woman admired the world over for her courage, her forgiveness, and her memorable faith. In World War II, she and her family risked their lives to help Jews escape the Nazis, and their reward was a trip to Hitler’s concentration camps. But she survived and was released-as a result of a clerical error-and now shares the story of how faith triumphs over evil. For thirty-five years Corrie’s dramatic life story, full of timeless virtues, has prepared readers to face their own futures with faith, relying on God’s love to overcome, heal, and restore. Now releasing in a thirty-fifth anniversary edition for a new generation of readers, The Hiding Place tells the riveting story of how a middle-aged Dutch watchmaker became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s death camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century.” (Amazon description)
* Read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl with your children, or watch the 1959 film, The Diary of Anne Frank — “Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.” (Amazon description)
* Read Night by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel on your own, or with your family — “Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.” (Amazon description)
- Half of Knesset in Poland for Holocaust memorial (Times of Israel)
- Herzog at Auschwitz calls on Jews to always be self-reliant (Jerusalem Post)
- Israeli Knesset delegation holds memorial service at Auschwitz death camp — Prior to historic Knesset meeting on Polish soil, politicians take part in International Holocaust Remembrance Day observance at site of death of more than a million Jews (Ynet News)