Learning religious literacy from Sesame Street
Sometimes religious beliefs are, well, just strange

Why we need to remember the Nuremberg trials

On this date in 1945 (I was all of 10 months old at the time), the Nuremberg trials of 22 Nazi war leaders (and later of many more lower-ranking German authorities) began in Germany.

NurembergIf you think about the timing, it's shocking that the trials began just over six months after the end of the war in Europe. Compare that to the still-not-started military tribunal trials of the people charged with the 9/11 terrorist attacks 18-plus years ago who still are being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Six months vs. 18 years. What's wrong with that picture?

As this online entry by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum notes, "The Nazis' highest authority, the person most to blame for the Holocaust, was missing at the trials. Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in the final days of the war, as had several of his closest aides. Many more criminals were never tried. Some fled Germany to live abroad, including hundreds who came to the United States."

One of the things I have learned in not just reading about the Holocaust but also in doing research for the book that Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn and I wrote (They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust) is that many survivors of the Nazi evil didn't want to talk about what they went through and often hid their story from their children and grandchildren until much later in life.

Indeed, it really wasn't until Raul Hilberg published The Destruction of the European Jews in 1961 that the world began to pay much attention to the Holocaust, at least after the Nuremberg Trials ended.

And in some ways it took the movie "Schindler's List" in the early 1990s to kick-start Holocaust interest and scholarship into its current state.

The scope of the malevolence was so massive, so unexpected, so incredible that it took time for the world to acknowledge that a modern European nation could orchestrate such an intentional catastrophe.

The question remains of how the German people could have been led to support a government that had as its goal the elimination of European Jewry. One of the answers is that Adolf Hitler outlined his thinking about this matter in his repugnant book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) in the early 1920s and that most people ignored what was his clear goal. Here is some of what he said in that book malignant and pernicious book:

  • All human culture, all the results of art, science, and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all that we understand by the word “man.” He is the Prometheus of mankind from whose bright forehead the divine spark of genius has sprung at all times, forever kindling anew that fire of knowledge which illumined the night of silent mysteries and thus caused man to climb the path to mastery over the other beings of this earth. Exclude him — and perhaps after a few thousand years darkness will again descend on earth, human culture will pass, and the world turn to a desert.
  • The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew.
  • Blood mixture and the resultant drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but by the loss of that force of resistance which is contained only in pure blood. All who are not of good race in this world are chaff.
  • If the Jews were alone in this world, they would stifle in filth and offal; they would try to get ahead of one another in hate-filled struggle and exterminate one another, in so far as the absolute absence of all sense of self-sacrifice, expressing itself in their cowardice, did not turn battle into comedy here too.
  • It was and it is Jews who bring the Negroes into the Rhineland, always with the same secret thought and clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily resulting bastardization, throwing it down from its cultural and political height, and himself rising to be its master. For a racially pure people which is conscious of its blood can never be enslaved by the Jews. In this world he will forever be master over bastards and bastards alone.

I feel almost as if I should apologize for inflicting those words on you, but I hope you already know about them. Besides, we're in terrible trouble if we forget that a man who became the leader of a supposedly civilized and free nation wrote them.

The world had no choice to but behave in a rational, lawful way and convict the Nazi leaders in a fair trial as a way of demonstrating that this kind of putrid straight-line thinking could not stand. The sad reality is that today antisemitism is resurgent. But if we continue to try to teach our children about all of this, through such agencies as the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, we have a chance of unplugging this deadly anti-Jewish thinking.

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A new report says the mainline Anglican Church of Canada won't exist in 20 more years if current trends continue. Does someone offer palliative or hospice care for faith communities?


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