Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Memorial
Warning: The material in this blog is graphic and disturbing. There were no photos allowed at the Yad Vashem Memorial.
In the afternoon we joined a tour going to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was led by a Jewish woman named Kay Wilson.
Kay was outstanding as a guide. We could not have had anyone more passionate than she was about her subject. We learned that the process of exterminating the Jews was carefully crafted and took about 12 years. Hitler did not know what he was going to do at the beginning but it developed over time. Everything was done in secret. At the core of it was a Theosophic understanding that people could become gods. They wanted to facilitate that process by developing a pure racial line.
They began by offering free medical treatment to handicapped children. They took them to special treatment centres and euthanized them. When people became aware that this atrocity was being committed there was a huge outcry from the German people, especially from the church. Hitler was checked in that plan and desisted.
Next there was a carefully crafted propaganda campaign maligning Jews and blaming them for the financial suffering they were experiencing during the Great Depression. The Jews were portrayed in literature and caricature as plotting to take over the world.
When Hitler came to power in 1933 the first thing he did was order the burning of every Jewish book. Over the next few years, Jews were forced to wear the Star of David with the word Jew written on it. The Nazis then gathered them into Ghettos. Conditions were so appalling that many starved to death.
Hitler established small elite death squads whose job it was to kill Jews. They at first made them dig their own mass graves and shot them. That was too close and personal for many soldiers. So a high level meeting was held which came up with the “final solution.” It was a plan to secretly exterminate Jews by the millions. They drew a map and determined that there were 11 million Jews across Europe who, they decided, needed to be eliminated.
Poland became the dumping ground for much of this death and destruction because it was a middle ground between the Germans and the Russians. To do this they established three secret death camps in the forest, and began relocating the Jews from the Ghettos to the death camps. To the Western European Jews they sold return tickets for what was actually going to be a one way trip. The Jews mostly went willingly. They believed that their situation would improve.
They were herded into cattle cars so tight and thick that many perished on the journey. When they arrived they were processed by being stripped of their possessions and their clothes. Their hair was cut and later sold. They were sent into what they were told were showers. They were packed in so tightly, up to two thousand at once, that there was no room for anyone else. Then they were gassed with fertilizer pellets that reacted when exposed to oxygen. It took twenty to thirty minutes to die.
Jewish slaves had to drag the bodies out and clean the rooms before the next batch so that people would not panic when they entered the “showers.” All of this was directed by only thirty to forty SS officers per camp and they got away with it because nobody realized what was happening until it was too late. The bodies were burned in crematoriums.
Out of 3,300,000 Jews in Poland, over three million were murdered. Six million Jews from all across Europe lost their lives. The German Nazis looted their property and their possessions. The trains would go out to the camps loaded with the people and come back loaded with their valuables.
The world for the most part turned their eyes away and refused to help. How could it happen? How could the world allow it to happen? Only one country in the entire world would accept Jews as refugees and that was the Dominican Republic! A ship full of Jewish refugees sailed to Florida seeking refuge and were turned away. They sought refuge in several other places and eventually sailed back to Europe where they ended up in the gas chamber.
The British refused to allow Jews into Palestine because of the tensions that already existed between the Jews and the Palestinians who lived there. And so they died, by the millions. There have been many similar atrocities but the primary difference in this one is that they died for three reasons…DNA. There was nothing they could do to save themselves. They could not change religions. They could do nothing. If they had Jewish blood they were marked to die.
What would you or I have done? The church in Bulgaria stood up for the Jews in their country and of the 20,000, all of them were spared. Denmark ferried all of their Jews across to neutral Sweden to save them from the Nazis. Many Norwegians risked their lives by carrying them across the North Sea in small fishing boats to the Shetland Islands. Where the church stood up against this evil it was tempered or stopped.
Pastor Martin Niemoller in a famous speech made in 1946 said these thought provoking words:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
May God help us to love our neighbour and to defend the cause of the helpless and persecuted ones!
Click the photos below to view them full-size…