We recently observed Yom Hashoah—a day set aside to remember the 6,000,000 victims of the Holocaust. IIn Jewish practice, it is important to remember (yizkor) the dead on the date of their death and to say Kaddish, a traditional Hebrew prayer, in their memory. Today (April 9) is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Flossenburg by the Nazis. These events—the holocaust and the execution of the Lutheran Pastor—are connected by history, but there is also a spiritual connection.
Throughout the Scriptures, God calls his people to remember God’s acts of salvation in history. The children of Israel were commanded to remember the Lord’s Passover when he delivered them from slavery in Egypt “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast (Exodus 12:14).” On Passover Yeshua broke matzah and instituted communion to be eaten “in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).”
Passover and Easter also provide the context in which the people of God should memorialize the Holocaust. On the day Bonhoeffer was martyred he declared, “This is the end, for me the beginning of Life.” These words only make sense in view of Yeshua’s resurrection—His triumph over death. In Messiah, Bonhoeffer was able to declare victory on the day he was hung on a scaffold—like his Master.
Christians, no less than the Jewish people, are called to remember the Holocaust. True believers were victims alongside their Jewish brethren. Bonhoeffer understood that true followers of Jesus identified with his people. Bonhoeffer affirmed that, “It is rather the task of Christian preaching to say: here is the church, where Jew and German stand together under the Word of God; here is the proof whether a church is still the church or not (Rusty Swords, 225).” And, “Only he who cries out for the Jews can sing Gregorian chants.” Bonhoeffer was calling the church of Germany to remember who they really were, because they had forgotten and had betrayed Jesus—the Messiah of Israel. Let us learn from Bonhoeffer’s example and remember the Holocaust but in light of God’s victory over death and darkness in his Son, Yeshua our Lord.