70 years since Auschwitz

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp. In 70 years Europe has learned… little. Extreme right wing party’s gains support all over Europe. Their language have slightly changed with a more ‘mellow’ tone to it but the underlying goal remains the same namely that of nationalism. “-This is our country.” The same rhetoric is used. ‘The recent misfortunes of (insert European country) is strongly connected to the high presence of (insert minority group) coming here. Someone else is blamed for misfortunes so that the majority does not have to take responsibility for their own actions that led them to this misfortune in the first place.

We honor the victims of the Nazi death and work camps best by making sure they do not get built again. And we would do well to remember that they did not just ‘appear’ out of thin air. The camps got build upon the idea, a seed that humans are only worth as much as they can contribute to the ‘perfect society.’ The Jews where only allowed to live if they could work. The ones that got murdered were murdered after they had been picked clean from anything that could contribute to Hitler’s Aryan society. ‘Arbeit macht frei’ was the creed in Hitler’s 3rd Reich.  If you did not contribute, you were disposable. If you did not look or behave or think like the majority, you where murdered.  There are plenty of seeds like this in present Europe.

Much of the general public still believe the same lies even though it does not have the same extreme expression as in Nazi Germany. If we work we will have freedom. That somehow our actions, what we do and what we earn will buy us out of our funk. I’m not saying that what we do does not matter, that works does not have a place. I’m just saying that the ultimate liberation of the human person can’t be based upon something that lies within her control. Listening to some of the testimonies from inside the camps you realize that some of the Jews there found freedom albeit not because they worked until they were spent. No, they found freedom, it seems when they where able to forgive their captors and tormentors.  When they surrendered control.

Racism or anti Semitism is so dangerous because it robs the human person of her intrinsic value. A prejudice verdict is made within a courtroom of fear before the accused may testify. A human person is worth to defend just because she is just that, a person. She can’t contribute everything but she can contribute something, herself. It is in seeing that a person has value because who she is, not what she does that we can somehow try to start to forgive our oppressors. Our worth is not based upon what we do but we will become more and more like what we do.

You would think that Europe had learned from the past, that we would remember our history to the extent of not having to repeat the same crimes against the Jews, or other minority groups. But Jews in Europe feel scared to show they are Jews. Mosques in Sweden are being vandalized. The party Jobbik in Hungary is denying the Holocaust; they also recently motioned a bill that would register Jews in government because they say that Jews are a threat to national security. Stand up comedians in France are making light of the plight of the Jews and speaks very derogatively about minorities. Why, because we forget the past. We believe that our worth is determined by what we do. We fear the things we do not know. And we think about ourselves as more important than others.

Christ is a Jew. Christ teaches something different. He teaches us to honor our heritage. He says that we are always loved independently of what we do or how we perform. He loves us for who we are. We do not have to fear the unknown because He is always with us. He also says that we should love our enemies.

I pray that we would heed His voice.

In Christ

fr. Jakob

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