Who Suffered the Agony of the Holocaust?
LAST June the American Jewish Congress sent an open letter to Pope John Paul II. It was published in The New York Times, June 26. It protested the papal audience granted to Kurt Waldheim, the president of Austria, accused of being involved in the Nazi killing of Jews during World War II. Waldheim was cited as the symbol “of current efforts to diminish, falsify and forget the Holocaust.”
After acknowledging that the agony of the Holocaust could not be undone, the letter said: “But surely the most sacred command of our generation is memory: not to forget how silence became indifference, indifference became complicity, and finally turned into a nightmare of slaughter for millions upon millions.” Waldheim, the letter said, “wishes to inflict on the victims of the Holocaust the final indignity of forgetfulness.” The pope was then castigated because he “put moral principle aside” and received Waldheim at the Vatican. The letter continued:
“Is it possible, Your Holiness, that in Waldheim’s forgetfulness [of the Holocaust] there is an echo, however distant, of the Church’s forgetfulness as well? Has Your Holiness dealt with the indifference of the Catholic churches in Europe to the fate of the Jews during World War II? Not a word on the subject has been uttered in any of your Papal visits to various European countries and to the Death Camps. Despite the extraordinary heroism of so many individual Catholics, isn’t it true that, along with so much of the rest of the world, the official churches were largely silent and abandoned the Jews in their agony? And if the Church, to which millions look for moral guidance, cannot yet come to terms with its past, if it cannot respond to the demands of sacred memory, what hope is there for others?”
Of course, the attempted genocide of millions of Jews does cry out for remembrance. But reflect a moment. When the letter mentions the Holocaust, is it not presented exclusively as a Jewish holocaust? Was it not “to the fate of the Jews” only that the Catholic churches were accused of indifference? And according to this letter, was it not ‘much of the rest of the world and other churches’ that “abandoned the Jews in their agony?” Only the Jews? Did not others in addition to the Jews suffer?
The book The Forgotten Holocaust shows that there were three million non-Jewish Poles caught up in the Holocaust. A History of the Modern World refers to the millions of other people involved in it. Even of the German Jehovah’s Witnesses, non-Witness sources have reported that “some 10,000 were imprisoned” and “more than two thousand perished in concentration camps.”
The Holocaust is not to be regarded, therefore, as an assault on the Jews alone. Hitler was determined to exterminate any group of people that did not bow to his doctrine of Aryan superiority. Jehovah’s Witnesses were included because they believed and applied the Bible principle at Acts 17:26, 27.