Skip to main content

International Holocaust Remembrance Day begs the church to remember with action

Candles in Moscow to honor International Holocaust Rememberance Day
Candles in Moscow to honor International Holocaust Rememberance Day
AP Photo/Misha Japaridze

In 2005, the United Nations marked this day, January 27th, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This date was chosen as it was the day that Allied forces liberated the prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

As many reflect on this day around the world, it serves to remind us of the dangers of religious abuse. Hitler used the churches of Germany to forward his cause and teach hatred of Jews. The Nazis attempted to establish a unified Protestant church through the work of Ludwig Mueller , a Nazi, who used his pulpit to preach the dangers of the Jews. The Roman Catholic church was also influenced by the Nazi regime causing the Pope to sign a treaty with Hitler. Neither Protestant nor Catholic leaders ever renounced the horrors of the Holocaust.

In each of these instances, Hitler and the Nazis promoted the idea of unity and conformity as the way to a better Germany. By infiltrating the churches, the idea took on a religious overtone and masses of people believed the Nazis to be right. The German people were duped by their own clergy to declare without doubt that Jews were inferior.  It wasn't until the heat of the war that some German theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer began to publicly resist the Nazi movement.

The call to the church today is this: purity of belief can never be defined by race, gender, education, or economics. The Good News is for all people in all places. The church is to be the incarnation of God on the planet. And as such, the church should be the first to pursue justice, freedom, and equality. The church is to be the light of the world.