Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Remembering the Holocaust

This Sunday I will be preaching on the Holocaust and the tragedies of that time period. To prepare I re-read "Night" by Elie Wiesel and have been reading some accounts from Jews who were in German controlled areas during Kristalnacht. I do not recommend this kind of reading for people who desire something "light" in nature.

What struck me about Elie Wiesel's novel was his accounting of the young man who played the violin. He was an accomplished musician and when the Nazi's began their persecution he was told he was not allowed to play Beethoven because of his faith. Wiesel recounts one night, near the end of his ordeal, in which this young man squeezes out of a crowd of packed men and begins to play his violin, a selection from Beethoven. It is described as if his entire soul is poured out in this final concert, witnessed only by other Jewish men who are more than half dead from starvation and maltreatment. Wiesel comments that when he awakes the next day, he finds this violinist dead, next to the broken violin.

It is one thing to know that there is evil in the world. It is another to encounter this evil directly, or through a story as powerful as this. Being reminded of the basest forms of human existence is troubling and unsettling. But it is also necessary. I believe that as human beings we must be willing to search our own selves, deep down inside of us in those places that we often try to deny, to discover those aspects of ourselves from which we hide. Though it can be a troubling examination, it also gives us the opportunity to expose this part of our self to the healing power of God's love. Quite often we forget that this is why Christ dies and rose again. It was not for the good we do in the world, but for the evil we harbor in ourselves.

The Holocaust reminds us of the depths to which humanity can sink. And today is can serve as inspiration for us doing our best to survive. Never again can we turn a blind eye to actions such as these. Never again can we allow the systematic torture and genocide of any people. While I do not agree with all of our governments military interventions across the world, I do agree that we are called to respond to this evil in the world, wherever it may be.