For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.Elie Wiesel
On this day, we remember our six million Jewish brothers and sisters on record who were killed at the hands of the Third Reich. We remember the more than eleven and a half million who were in the camps. We remember the millions more that were slaughtered outside the camps. And it was not just our Jewish brethren we remember, but also our Slavic, Romani, LGBTQ brethren, and so many others who were considered too “different” to bear.
On this day, we remember the likely fifty million who were killed at the hands of the Third Reich.
The Holocaust was not the only atrocity of its nature to ever leave such a stain on humanity. Nor was it necessarily the worst, though it certainly was up there. We humans are quite good at labeling one another, putting each other into “in groups” and “out groups,” and then decimating those who we do not want causing “harm” to our society anymore.
It is somewhat striking to have MLK Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day barely more than a week apart. Both bring to mind some of the greatest horrors we humans have ever created for one another. More importantly, both show us the work we still have yet to do.
White supremacy, at the root of the Holocaust and all that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought against, is still very much with us. It is a sin that has yet to be rooted out. And its progenitor, racism, is even further instilled into who we are to this very day – no matter how hard we may try to deny it. The evidence is far to blatant for us to ignore any longer.
We must bear witness to the history that has made us who we are and learn all that we can. And then we must take active strides into the future choosing to do better. To be better. To fight within ourselves and within our systems, even the church, unmasking those idolatries that allow racism to hide in our midst.
Where do we begin?
By seeking out voices that are different than our own. Ones that look different. Sound different. Have a different background. Have a different thought process. Sometimes even a different religion. Then open our ears and our hearts to listen for God’s still small voice in the spaces that make us uncomfortable. And be willing to open our eyes and see those places within ourselves that may need rooted out.
Start there. Because the world is in far too fragile a state for us to wait even a moment longer.
We must never forget. Nor must we ever let such abominations ever occur again.