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SIDIC Periodical XV - 1982/2
Images of the Other (Pages 21 - 22)

Other articles from this issue | Version in English | Version in French

Yom ha-Shoah and Christian commemorations of the Holocaust
Marie-NoŽlle De Baillehache

 

For several years, mainly in the United States and Canada, groups of dedicated Christians have taken the initiative for Christian-inspired commemorations of the Holocaust 1. These take place near the date chosen by the Jewish community throughout the world to commemorate their Jewish brothers who died in the Nazi death camps: Yam Ha-Shoah (the day of disaster).

What is the significance of such Christian commemorative services? II seems possible to sum them up in three words: compassion, education, repentance.

Compassion:
To suffer with those who suffer, and to express it by one's words and deeds, is not this the first need of anyone who wants to show his love for his sorrowing brother?

Education of Christians: A liturgy is more effective than lectures, films, newspaper articles. Readings from Scripture and Holocaust literature alternate with the singing of psalms, invocations, times of silence and appropriate music, in order to stir the depths of the soul, arousing a determination to act in such a way as to prevent the renewal of such a terrible aberration; it sensitizes one to any situation which might threaten the existence, not only of the Jewish people, but also of any ethnic or racial minority, any people or group, throughout the world.

Repentance:
The Holocaust was conceived and executed by baptised people, in the midst of nations officially Christian for centuries, and after a long history of persecution of the Jews in Christendom.
"Although not guilty of the deeds which have been perpetrated throughout the ages, today's Christians cannot deny that they were carried out by his brothers in Christianity, and most of the time in the name of Christianity. It must be recognized that the consequence has been, and still is, a tenacious anti-semitism which has penetrated our very being ... The Christian should understand that the Jewish people has a right to be resentful, to feel perhaps a certain mistrust towards Christianity. And if the Jew rejects Christ's cross, it is first and foremost because this very cross always presided over the killing of his ancestors. A Christian who loves the cross of Christ should, without being -made guilty", feel the horror of such an abomination ... We must make reparation".2

Impact on the Jewish Community

The few Jews who have got to know about these initiatives, and have attended such a liturgy, have been comforted and have understood that Christians have begun seriously to revise their centuries' old attitude towards the Jewish people. They saw in these celebrations a token of the sincerity of the dialogue recently begun between Christians and Jews.

Such Christian commemorations of the Holocaust are therefore, in their own way, an important element in the transformation of the 'Christian vision" of the Jewish people and Judaism. They help develop a meaningful Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Extract from a Christian Service in Memory of the Holocaust, sponsored by many Christian and Jewish organisations in Toronto

"We are gathered here this evening as Christians in remembrance, in repentance, and in resistance.
We are gathered here to remember our six million Jewish brothers and sisters who were the victims of the Holocaust. We are invited tonight to listen to the words and to the silence of the suffering of these people.
With them, we are called by the Spirit to the edges of our hearts and minds, to that borderline between doubt and faith, between despair and hope.
We are called to face the darkness within ourselves, within our churches, and within our Christian tradition which continues to make the Holocaust a dark night of faith for Jews and Christians alike.
We are summoned to a response forged in the fires of Auschwitz. We are summoned to a Job-like faith, to a stronger covenant with humanity, and to an active resistance against the powers of darkness in our times.
In our remembrance, in our repentance, and in our resistance let us become more truly Christian."

Extract from A Holocaust Memorial Service for Christians ó Yom HaShoah
(a resource book of Christian clergy and lay people in designing Christian services of remembrance)

A Confession
In Memory of the Six Million


For the sin which we committed before You
and before them by dosing our ears
And for the sin which we committed before You
and before them by not using our power;
For the sin which we committed before You
and before them by being overcautious
And for the sin which we committed before You
and before them by hesitating;
For the sin which we committed before You
and before them by treachery towards brothers and sisters And for the sin which we committed before You and before them by being content with those times;
For all these sins, 0 God of forgiveness, Forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.
For the sin which we committed before You and before them by fearing the powerful
And for the sin which we committed before You and before them by bowing to their will;
For the sin which we committed before You
and before them by too much patience
And for the sin which we committed before You and before them by appeasement;
For the sin which we committed before You
and before them by continued frivolity
And for the sin which we committed before You and before them by rationalization;
For the sin which we committed before You
and before them by cowardice
And for the sin which we committed before You and before them by apathy;
For all these sins, 0 God of forgiveness, Forgive us, pardon us, and grant us Strength to say 'Never Again!'



1. A number of Jews have expressed their regret that the word 'Holocaust' has become the usual way of designating the extermination of the Jewish people by the Nazis. The Biblical term `Holocaust' has a sacrificial and religious connotation, and therefore is unsuitable to express what has been a crime against humanity.
The Hebrew word "Shoah' has no such connotation, and fits the situation more exactly. It seems difficult, however, if not well-nigh impossible, to find one English word capable of conveying the depth of suffering that this word represents. Alcalay's Complete Hebrew-English Dictionary offers the following: Shoal,, destruction, ruin, catastrophe, holocaust, cataclysm, disaster, darkness, pit, abyss.
2. Article of Fr. Roger Braun S.J. in the magazine įRENCONTRE: chretiens et juifs", no. 63 (1979) entitled: "Towards a Christian Repentance"; published together with the magazine "SENS", of the Christian-Jewish Friendship of France (Amide Judeo-chretienne de France).

 

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