Holocaust Memorial Day – 27 January 2020

candles credit mike labrum unsplashThis year marks the 75th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a complex of more than 40 concentration and extermination camps operated by the Nazis in occupied Poland during the Second World War.

More than 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives there.

For Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 and its theme of Stand Together, the Revd Philip Brooks, United Reformed Church Secretary for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, offers a reflection:

Isaiah 2:2:4, Verse 4: He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (NRSV).

A poignant message of hope and belief in the collective goodness of people was written in 1944 by the diarist Anne Frank. The diary writing ended when, aged just 15, she was captured by the Gestapo in August of that year and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

She wrote: ‘I still believe that people are really good at heart. I can feel the suffering of millions, and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come out right one of these days; that this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.’

In Old Testament times, the prophet Isaiah looked up to the heavens and spoke of a time when people everywhere would cease to wage war. They would transform their destructive tools of war and oppression into creative tools which work for the collective good: swords into ploughshares.

On 27 January, the world marks exactly 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau for Holocaust Memorial Day. Cruelly, the liberation of the concentration camps came just too late for Anne Frank, but her words of hope and solidarity remain with us, as do those of Isaiah and his fellow prophets.

We live in challenging times, when in Europe and in other parts of the world, synagogues and other places of worship are still being attacked. Hate speech and hate crime are on the rise. There is a pressing need to transform the weaponised words of cruelty and separation into prophetic words of hope and solidarity.

As part of the 75th commemoration, the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) have produced a booklet for churches. With messages, prayers, poetry and testimonies, here are just such words of hope and solidarity, speaking to this year’s anniversary theme of Stand Together.

Philip and coThis new resource was launched at the House of Lords on 20 January, with addresses by the Rt Revd Colin Sinclair, General Assembly Moderator of the Church of Scotland, alongside Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi to Masorti Judaism.

As we pause for Holocaust Memorial Day, perhaps using the unifying words contained in CCJ’s booklet, we too might look up into the heavens and pray for a time of tranquillity and peace, when we can all truly ‘stand together’.

Prayer

Used with permission from CCJ’s 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day resource for churches

God of justice and of peace,
You call your people to stand together, in solidarity with those who suffer;
We remember before you in sorrow:
all who perished in the horror of the Holocaust,
all who were persecuted,
and all whose suffering continues;
Turn the hearts of all who persecute and oppress,
and of all who seek to divide;
Open our own hearts and minds, when they are closed in fear and hatred,
So that all your peoples may stand together and reflect your image

Amen

 

Picture: From left to right: Church of Scotland General Assembly Moderator, Rt Revd Colin Sinclair, URC Secretary for Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations, Revd Philip Brooks, Mrs Ruth Sinclair and URC General Assembly Moderator, Derek Estill at the House of Lords for the launch of ‘Stand Together’ CCJ 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day resource for churches.
Published: 23 January 2020