On this Holocaust Memorial Day, the civilized world again pauses to remember the lives lost through the evil of Adolph Hitler and his followers over seventy years ago. For some people that is the end of the story. Others recognize that the end of the Holocaust was followed by a new beginning for the Jewish people. Much as the mythical phoenix rose from the ashes, so too did the modern Jewish people rise from the ashes of old Europe to a home in what would become the modern state of Israel.
How often remembrances about the Holocaust fail to acknowledge the future for the Holocaust survivors and their descendants. In the Book of Ezekiel 37:11-14, he recounts what God told him in the valley of dead, dry bones:
“Then He said to me “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open up your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’”
God’s word was as valid to the Holocaust survivors in the Twentieth Century as it was to Ezekiel in his century. From the charnel house of Europe, heated by Hitler’s hatred, the surviving Jews returned to the land of Israel and joined with those Jews who had remained there, making it a viable nation and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Consider this: each time the Israeli flag flaps in the breeze, either in its native country or at one of the various foreign capitals on Earth, it is a stinging rebuke to Hitler. Without realizing it, Hitler left behind twin legacies, the first a legacy of evil and a double legacy of failure. His thousand year Reich did not last a decade (Modern Israel will celebrate its fiftieth birthday next year). The next part of his legacy of failure is more far-reaching. The Holocaust survivors and their descendants are living proof each day of Hitler’s failure, as is the State of Israel
Yes, the Holocaust should never be forgotten and used as a reference point for modern atrocities, such as the barbaric acts of ISIS. But the world should also never forget those Jews who turned unspeakable loss into unparalleled victory, a victory Hitler could neither predict nor prevent. Each time a Jewish child emerges from his mother’s womb, the baby’s cry is an echo in time, which can remind posterity that the cries of mourning from Hitler’s victims and survivors have been replaced by the cries of a Jewish newborn brought into a world where Hitler is dead and the Jewish people survive and thrive.
William E. Plants
URG Chaplaincy Coordinator