Speaker at Wannsee Conference urges: Christians must do more to combat a resurgent tide of anti-Semitism
Rev. Johnnie Moore addresses the symposium on the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference
BERLIN—Senior faith leaders from around the world gathered to condemn anti-Semitism at a symposium held on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference – where 15 senior Nazi and German government officials planned the Final Solution.
The European Coalition for Israel organized the event.
“The tragedy at Wannsee did not start with the Wannsee conference in 1942,” Tomas Sandell, founding director of the ECI, said. “Without a supportive belief system and deeply rooted anti-Semitic sentiments in the German culture at the time, there could not have been a Holocaust.”
ECI invited senior church leaders from around the world to participate in the conference.
President of the Congress of Christian Leaders Rev. Johnnie Moore, who also serves of the ALL ARAB NEWS Advisory Board, addressed the symposium yesterday. He warned that the current wave of anti-Semitism is worse than what we've seen in generations and urged Christians not to wait for political leaders but to lead the way in combating anti-Semitism – drawing from the failures of Christians' responses, as well as the triumphs.
"These dark ages always begin with hatred of the Jews," Moore said. "This is a moment of warning because 'the road to Auschwitz,' Ian Kershaw also reminds us, may have been 'built by hate,' but it was 'paved with indifference.'”
Here are his remarks in full:
Ian Kershaw observes, “Surprising as it sounds today, [a] symposium staged …at Stuttgart in 1984…was the first time an academic conference in Germany had ever been devoted to the persecution of the Jews.”
Astonishing indeed, considering that nearly two generations had passed since the Holocaust. Here we are now, two more generations later and while considerable progress has been made in documenting history’s unparalleled travesty, it is also true that we haven’t done enough to educate today’s generations, and because of this we face a resurgent anti-Semitism we haven't seen in generations.
While the United States has plenty of anti-Semitism itself, growing from the right and the left – including the hallowed halls of our United States Congress – our country was touched this week by an Islamist anti-Semite who came from Britain all the way to the United States of America in order to take a synagogue hostage.
We have a crisis on our hands.
A CNN poll in 2018 quantified it, stating that “one-in-20 Europeans had never heard of the Holocaust and more than a quarter believed Jews had too much influence in business and finance and one-in-five believed anti-Semitism was a response to the everyday actions of Jews.”
As faith leaders still grappling with the lessons of the Holocaust, it is up to us to lead; not to wait for politicians, opinion polls or God forbid, another deadly attack on Jews.
We must take the lead to demand, to ensure, as people of faith … especially Christians … that the rest of society … starting with our leaders … demonstrate in word and deed solidarity with the 6 million murdered during the Shoah.
I AM HERE BECAUSE I BELIEVE EVERY GENERATION OF CHRISTIANS MUST KNOW ABOUT THIS TRAGIC STORY.
And I’m ashamed to say that I only learned of the Wannsee Conference myself in my adulthood. Somehow, despite my education and experience, this tragic story had eluded me. It was on this very day a few years ago when a Jewish friend mentioned to me in passing that the next day was the anniversary of the Wannsee Conference.
I was horrified I hadn’t heard of it and I was more horrified to learn about those who attended the conference. I wonder how many millennial Christians, and even Christian Zionists like me, are like I once was?
As has been said in various ways here today, each of the 15 attendees at the Wannsee Conference were Christians, all but four were protestants.
You also couldn’t dismiss them as uneducated or underprivileged. It was a cultured Germany which gave us the Wannsee Fifteen. Eight of the 15 had doctorates and most of them had studied law. As the late Lord Rabbi Sacks reminds us, “Heidegger, the greatest German philosopher of the twentieth century, was an enthusiastic member of the Nazi party, [he] betrayed his Jewish colleagues and students, and never, after the war, expressed remorse for what he had done. Scientists, lawyers, judges, doctors and academics all played their part in the extermination of the Jews and almost none registered a protest.”
While we like to highlight the courage of those Christians who stood against the Nazis – like the early priests sent off to the death camps or [Dietrich] Bonhoeffer and [Martin] Niemuller (I was certainly told of their stories as a child, repeatedly) – it is also important for us to first remember that the vast majority of the Nazis were Christians and this great horror took place in a Christian country in Christian Europe.
The universities didn’t inoculate them from race, ethnic or religious-based hatred – they fueled it – and the churches didn’t inoculate them from the disease of indifference – in fact – they sometimes even enabled it.
I remember the story of one Christian who wrote:
“I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it … A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance, and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars. Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews in route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow, we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more. Although years have passed, I still hear the train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me, forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians and yet did nothing to intervene.”
Christian families, pastors and churches must tell our children about our Christian triumphs – but also of our Christian tragedies.
While the faith of Corrie Ten Boom, Bonhoeffer and Oskar Schindler may represent an authentic Christianity we must also tell our children about the pogroms too.
While hundreds-of-millions of Evangelicals might represent a great firewall against anti-Semitism …. the roots of which go at least to the 10 Christian Zionists invited by [Theodor] Herzl to observe the First Zionist Conference in Switzerland …. It is equally important to recognize these last 100 years mainly represent the exception to the rule …. This century of Evangelical-Jewish friendship was preceded by centuries of Christian persecution of Jews.
It’s why I don’t judge my Jewish friends who won’t let their guard down. It’s for good reason.
I AM ALSO HERE — WE ARE ALSO HERE — BECAUSE ANTI-SEMITISM IS A RAGING FIRE AGAIN AND WE MUST PUT IT OUT, NOW.
INSTEAD WE SEEM TO BE IN DENIAL.
Or to use another analogy….this ancient hate, for which there is no vaccine, spreads without vigilance and it’s spreading now from the far right and the progressive left…. metastasizing by the very day.
While we sit here today, remembering 15 men who plotted to killed every Jew in Europe, “negotiators” from our countries sit in Vienna working very hard to appease an Iranian regime whose state policy is to pursue a new holocaust, even as their state policy is also to deny the first.
How can our leaders from Washington, Berlin and Brussels simultaneously mourn the murdered Jews of the Holocaust while appeasing the ayatollahs who dream of murdering Jews, today?
While we sit here today, Christians – including naive Evangelicals – have argued twice in two years at the notoriously anti-Semitic UN Human Rights Council for sanctions relief for that same Iranian regime despite that the regime has consistently denied offers from the international community, including the United States, to provide humanitarian aid outside of the sanctions … but the regime isn’t interested in that aid because they are more than happy to let their own people suffer if it means they can use them as negotiating leverage, to get more cash to fund more terrorism to try to kill more Jews.
While we sit here, advanced technology – including artificial intelligence technology – is being used to commit a sophisticated cultural and physical genocide against millions of Uyghurs by the second most powerful country in the world, which is also exporting that technology to other countries, including also to the Iranians.
Complicating matters, we live in a world rife with polarization, weakened by a pandemic and inflamed by social media.
It all reminds me of the words of Winston Churchill in his famous Iron Curtain speech, “If we fail,” at confronting these threats “then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science."
We have seen a glimpse of this dark age and the world barely survived and these dark ages always begin with hatred of the Jews.
This is a moment of warning because “the road to Auschwitz,” Ian Kershaw also reminds us, may have been “built by hate,” but it was “paved with indifference.”
It all reminds me of a conversation I had in Bosnia with a family who hosted me in their home more than a decade ago.
They said, “we worry about the future because our children are old enough to know the story of the war but far too young to remember what it felt like.”
MOST IMPORTANTLY, I’M HERE – WE’RE HERE – TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF THOSE WHOSE LIVES ENDED TOO SOON AND THOSE WHO MIRACULOUSLY SURVIVED …TO GO ON TO DEFY THE NAZIS BY REBUILDING THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THE JEWISH STATE OF ISRAEL.
Every act of solidarity is a dagger in the heart of hate, and the way we protect our present and our future is by teaching our children about our past.
Maimonides writes, “God gives us one gift above all others, life itself, beside which everything else is secondary.”
Our lives are God’s sacred gift to us. It’s all we have. Let's use our lives to save the lives of others. In so doing, we may just save ourselves, too.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.