Tag Archives: anti-semitism

REPEATING THE 1930’s

Chamberlain (right) shakes hands with Mussolini after signing the Munich Agreement while Hitler and other European leaders look on, 30 September 1938. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

It’s DEJA VU all over again!

The world is starting to resemble the 1930’s, which ended in WWII.

1) ITALY may not seem important.  But In 1922 the fascists came to power and Mussolini proclaimed a revival of the Roman Empire.   That was the beginning of World War II in Europe.   Fascism was a major force in a number of European countries in the thirties.

The country had an election last Sunday.  The result stunned Europe — two populist parties got most of the votes.   The two parties are widely seen as the equivalent of the fascist party that ruled Italy up to and during WWII.

This follows an election a few months ago that had a similar outcome in Germany.  The AfD there is now the main opposition party.   These parties in Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe are often labeled “far-right.”   They are all “populist” parties that have gained support at the expense of mainstream political parties.   They are anti-EU and anti-immigrant, as well as very nationalistic.

2)  There is increasing talk of a TRADE WAR on both sides of the Atlantic.   What started out as retaliation against unfair Chinese trade policies is spreading into a full-scale trade war between the US and the EU.   The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 followed the stock market crash and put high tariffs on US imports.   It is considered a major development on the road to the GREAT DEPRESSION, which led in turn to WW2.  It is difficult to see how the western alliance can hold together with increasing conflict over trade.

Historically, trade wars increase unemployment;   while unemployment leads voters to turn to the right, becoming more nationalistic.   A trade war will strengthen populist parties everywhere.

3) GERMANY REARMING  — President Trump has been pushing  for this to force Germany to contribute more to western defense.   Germany now has a military presence in the Sahel,  Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Baghdad.  Germany is also at the forefront of calling for a united European military force.

4)  UK & GERMANY AT LOGGERHEADS — In 1938 the British government was seeking to appease Germany; it still is, though this time there’s no talk of war. Just TALK, TALK, TALK over trade following Brexit. It does not look good for Britain as I write.

5)   GROWING ANTI-SEMITISM.    There have been a number of attacks on Jews in France, so many, in fact, that French Jews are leaving in record numbers for Israel; the Polish parliament has passed a law that forbids people from claiming Polish involvement in the Holocaust, even though it’s known that 200,000 Poles helped the Nazis round up Jews during World War II and assisted in the extermination camps; thirdly, Iceland has just banned male circumcision, while other countries are considering it.   This action will affect Muslims as well as Jews.

6)  RUSSIA IS MAKING THREATENING NOISES UNDER PUTIN, just as it did under Stalin.   Could Russia and Germany repeat the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact?    Both China and Russia now have dictators for life.   A prominent spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church is calling for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia.  He seems to have Putin in mind as Czar.  Whatever happens domestically in each country, the US will likely be in confrontation with both in the future.  In the 1930’s Stalin’s threats were ideological;  now the threats are just plain old-fashioned nationalism.

7)  AMERICA FIRST – in the 1930’s it was AMERICAN ISOLATIONISM, now it’s called AMERICA FIRST. And it’s not just Trump – America is focused on itself.   There is little foreign news on TV and most people just aren’t interested in what’s happening overseas.  It took Pearl Harbor to wake Americans up.   What will it take this time?

CONCLUSION

History repeats itself.  But it does not repeat itself exactly.   It remains to be seen how future events play out.  But the similarities with the 1930’s are definitely there.

There are, however, two big differences.

During the 1930’s the world’s only superpower was the British Empire.    This no longer exists.   There is also no Winston Churchill warning of the dangers ahead.   Without a warning message it is doubtful nations will make the changes needed to change course and avoid the mistakes of eight decades ago.

The above is a speech I’ve prepared for Men’s Speech Club  tomorrow.   I decided to post it to my blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ, 70 YEARS AGO TODAY

auschwitz

I had originally intended to return to the US and give a sermon on it, but I couldn’t.   I would not have been able to hold back the tears.

I’m referring to my visit to Auchwitz, one of the worst of the Nazi death camps where six million Jews died.   An estimated 1.1 million people died in Auschwitz, most of them Jews.   Men, women and children.

Most memorable in my mind was all the pony-tails cut off the heads of little girls.   They were stacked up high behind a see-through glass wall.   This was the hair of young female victims.   All I could think about was my four young grand daughters!   Auschwitz is set in a peaceful rural setting – what happened there could happen anywhere.   I had had the same thought when visiting Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, which reminded me of where my grandparents lived.

Auschwitz is the stuff of nightmares.   At the arrival point, where families had to get out of box-cars and were immediately sorted into those who would live and those who were assigned to immediate annihilation, I felt their hopelessness.   There would have been no opportunity to say good-bye to loved ones, none at all.   People were treated like animals.

The gas chamber was particularly horrific.   I stood under one of the vents through which came Zyklon B, the poisonous gas that quickly killed its victims.   In an adjacent room we saw where the corpses were first taken – to remove gold from teeth and cut off hair that could be made into rope or wigs for fashionable ladies.   The people who did all the work were inmates, forced to work on fellow inmates who had been selected to die.   Bones were boiled and made into soap.

The dormitories left an indelible impression on my mind.   Bunk beds were stacked to the ceiling.   There were three levels and, I believe, nine people slept to a bed.   Everybody would rush to get in the dormitory when bed-time came.   If you could get to the top level, there was fresh air coming through a gap between the wall and the roof.   Also, at the top, you would avoid human waste falling through the slats onto you during the night.   Because the diet was so poor, concentration camp victims had permanent diarrhea.   They could not use toilet facilities, such as they were, during the night and simply lay there relieving themselves onto those below.   How could one forget such an image?

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops.   When they arrived they found 7,000 survivors, all ill or starving.   In the West, we tend only to remember what our nations did in World War II.   We fail to appreciate that it was the Russians who contributed the most to the defeat of Nazi Germany.   Russia (the USSR) lost twenty million people.   They were the first to get to Auschwitz and, a few weeks later, to Berlin, where Hitler had committed suicide rather than face a trial for war crimes that included the camps.

The cool and calculated way in which the Nazis selected Auschwitz as their biggest concentration camp is chilling.   Auschwitz is close to Krakow, Poland, at the very heart of Europe.   Trains from all over the continent could easily get there, bringing Jewish victims in their tens of thousands.

A tour of the Jewish quarter in Krakow is a suitable accompaniment to the day in Auschwitz.   At one time the quarter was thriving.   Now only thirty Jews congregate in the one remaining synagogue that is still used.    Jews started moving to Krakow when they were expelled en masse from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.   In the same year that Christopher Columbus was sent to discover the New World, the king and queen decided they wanted their country to be free of Jews. 450 years later, Hitler wanted the same thing for Europe.

I asked our tour guide in Krakow why people hated the Jews so much. His reply was that “the Jews are different.   They go to church on Saturday, we Poles go on Sunday.”   In other words, they were persecuted for keeping the seventh day Sabbath.   Poles, like other conquered Europeans, co-operated with the Nazis when it came to handing over Jews.   Some helped the Jews, but most people were too afraid.

James Carroll, a former priest in the Roman Catholic Church, traces anti-semitism back to the church, which always blamed the Jews for killing Christ.   His book (also a DVD) is called Constantine’s Sword:   The Church and the Jews – a History.   He did not set out to blame his own church for the holocaust but his book shows the historical connection.   When Hitler visited Cologne Cathedral prior to World War II, he told the Archbishop that all he was doing was finishing the work the Catholic Church had started.

Sadly, anti-semitism is once again on the rise. Last year, almost 7,000 Jews left France for Israel.   In Britain, a recent survey showed Jews are increasingly afraid to live there.   The biggest single factor in anti-semitism is Europe’s rising Muslim population.   France has 500,000 Jews, the biggest number in Europe; the Muslim population is ten times that, at five million.   There have been a number of attacks on Jewish targets in recent years, the latest being the terror attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris last month.   Anti-semitism did not begin with the Nazis and it didn’t end with the fall of the Third Reich, either.

Why did God allow it to happen?   This is the question most often asked.   To me, the answer is quite simple – man rejected God. Men do not want to obey the Laws of God.   So they reap the consequences of disobedience, including the Holocaust.   Auschwitz is a sobering reminder to pray fervently “Thy Kingdom Come” (Matt 6:10).

If you can ever go to Poland, be sure to visit Krakow and Auschwitz. One is a well-preserved medieval city, the other a constant reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.

Everybody should go to Auschwitz.   Everybody.   If they don’t, it could happen again.