Recovering Evangelicalism – Seeking a Justice-based peace in the Middle East –

A Sad Centenary

This day, 2nd November, marks the one hundredth anniversary of the letter from Arthur Balfour, Britain’s Foreign Secretary in 1917, to Lord Rothschild as representing British Jewry. It is an indictment of Britain’s present government and many opposition members of parliament that they will be celebrating this event.

There is little for which to be proud. A degree of protection for Jews? Maybe, but at what cost. Might the Nazi holocaust have been averted had Zionism not been on the rise? That question may be impossible to answer, but it is well known that Nazis and Zionists wanted much the same thing: Jews out of Europe.

The Nazis didn’t much care where they went, it was Zionism that focussed on Palestine. Not because it was the best place in terms of space and population but because it was the only place that would have attracted the bulk of European Jewry, who, in the main, were not interested in Zionism.

Britain’s part in this, dating back to 19th century evangelicalism and beyond, should not be underplayed and should certainly not be celebrated. Apologising for the ‘sins of the fathers’ may seem pointless. It is unless it is accompanied by genuine action to put right the wrongs committed in our name. Britain and America together share major responsibility for the mess that is the Middle East. It is our duty to help people of goodwill – and they are there – to begin putting things right. If our leaders will not then we, the people, must.

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Comments on: "A Sad Centenary" (4)

  1. Dave,
    You wrote; “Might the Nazi holocaust have been averted had Zionism not been on the rise? That question may be impossible to answer, but it is well known that Nazis and Zionists wanted much the same thing: Jews out of Europe.”

    You seriously misunderstand European anti-Semitism! The Churches had pursued anti Semitic policies for 1800 years, vilification (from the start), boycotts and exclusions (AD 400 +), expulsions (1100 +) and finally ghettoization (1600s +). With the ghetto, the imprisonment and degradation of the Jewish people, the churches thought they had solved the problem. When the Enlightenment opened the ghetto gates, their hatred erupted anew.

    The Kishinev pogrom and its following violence convinced Leo Pinsker that Emancipation would fail. In 1919, over 150,000 Jews were killed in Eastern Europe. Early Zionism could see that Europe was turning genocidal. They were desperate to save their people. You would now blame the watchmen for calling out a warning?? This contradicts God’s standards in Ezekiel 33:2-6!! It says the watchman is the same as the murderer!

    These is a total difference between trying to murder someone and trying to save them! Equally, it was not just the Nazis who wanted the Jews out of Europe! The churches were equally guilty!!

    In 1920, a wave of deadly pogroms swept Poland, aided by claims from the Catholic Church that Communism was a Jewish creation. In 1923, the prominent cleric Father Jozef Krusznski wrote: “if the world is to be rid of the Jewish scourge, it would be necessary to exterminate them, down to the last one”. Two years later, he was named head of the Catholic University in Lublin. In 1936, Monsignor Trzeciak addressed a large audience on the topic “The Jewish problem in the light of Christian ethics”. He stated:

    “Saint Jerome hated the Jews and Pope Pius V expelled all Jews from the Papal domain. Poland should follow this example: Jews should be destroyed, exterminated and expelled from Poland … Noble are those Christians who refuse to sit with Jews on the same bench at university … every Polish woman who buys from a Jew is a traitor. The Christian religion imposes a penalty for dealing with Jews.”

    In 1936 the Polish episcopate and the primate of Poland endorsed a student pilgrimage to the town of Czestochowa, the site of the holiest Catholic shrine in Poland. Sixty percent of the entire university student population of Poland attended, and issued a declaration that: “We will not rest until the last Jew, alive or dead, has left Polish soil”.

    In 1919 the future Pius XI reported to the Vatican that “one of the most evil and strongest influences that is felt here, perhaps the strongest and most evil, is that of the Jews”. A final report on the future Pope’s mission to Poland, written by his assistant after reading through his notes, states: “it is unnecessary to say what a danger [the Jews] represent from a religious point of view. Fortunately, a part of the danger is diminished by the national antipathy for them”.

    Within Germany, in an Easter message to all of the pastors in his province Bishop Otto Dibelius wrote:

    “My dear brethren! We all not only understand but are fully sympathetic to the recent motivations out of which the folkisch movement has emerged … I have always considered myself an anti-Semite. One cannot ignore that Jewry has played a leading role in all the destructive manifestations of modern civilization. God bless us Christians and our Easter proclamation.”

    Five years before the Nazis took over, Dibelius had offered his own “solution” to the “Jewish problem.” It was based on the low birthrate of German Jews: “The number of children of the Jewish families is small. The process of dying out occurs surprisingly rapidly.” In other words, his desired outcome, like that of the Nazis, was a Germany without Jews.

    In April 1933 (when the Jewish community was 1.5 percent of the total population in Germany), he wrote concerning the boycott: “In the last fifteen years in Germany the influence of the Judaism has strengthened extraordinarily. The number of Jewish judges, Jewish politicians, Jewish civil servants in influential positions has grown noticeably. The voice of the people is turning against this.” Likewise, one of the leaders of the Young Reformers, the conservative Lutheran Walter Kunneth, granted Hitler the right “to solve the Jewish problem,” but not to limit the pastoral office to “Aryan”s. This “right” was necessary in order “to protect the German people from foreign contamination,”

    Also writing in January 1943, Bishop Marahrens sent a petition to the Interior Ministry in the name of the Conference of Church Leaders. He stated: “The racial question must be solved by the responsible political leadership. It alone has the right to take the necessary measures for the preservation of the purity of German blood and for the strengthening of the vitality of the Volk.”

    Dave, what you have written is a disgrace! Zionism’s warning proved true. Europe murdered six million Jews, and you assign blame to the Zionists for these Jewish deaths??!! This is foul!

    • Dear me, Colin,

      To begin, I wonder whether you have bothered to acquaint yourself with the pages on my blog/website that deal with Bias’. There, I make clear that I try to be aware of my own bias, and that I am writing from a particular perspective, informed by Biblical Christianity, to re-balance a narrative that is thoroughly biased towards support for Israel and demonization of Palestinians.
      So, where to start with your response; and, to be clear, I’m ‘approving’ it in order to respond to it. I am not going to enter an apologetic for European anti-Semitism, your 2nd para., but that is not what my post was about. And is it seriously your position that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is justified by European anti-Semitism? From your earlier responses you seem to think that is biblically justified.
      I have neither the time nor inclination to check your history which I shall assume is accurate, as far as it goes. The trouble is, it simply doesn’t go far enough. If you are going to comment using history, you should at least give your readers an idea of what you will omit. Apart from anything else, you ignore Jewish voices who, precisely in the context of Balfour’s letter, were concerned that it could be interpreted in exactly the way that the Nazis then did. That btw, is why the 2nd paragraph of the declaration was inserted, to deal with concerns expressed by Jews.
      The ‘Dreyfuss Affair’ in France showed that the establishment was substantially anti-Semitic, but if we are to do justice to history, it was establishment figures in France who lobbied, at personal cost, to put things right. During WW2 in both France and Germany ordinary priests and people protected Jews, often at their own cost. To ignore that, as you seem to, is the disgrace.
      The polemic of your 2nd para. is largely justified, but why does it never, from your side, come with important caveats? Why do you never mention the persecution of the early church, when Judaism was protected by the Roman State. That surely is a factor, although never a justification, in the 3rd century hatred of Christians for Jews. It seems that we have learned nothing much in 1800 years!
      Oddly enough your writing, para 4 excepted, supports my writing. And, rather than challenging my history head on, in that para, you seek to subvert it. The churches were manifestly not, ‘equally guilty’. What of the ‘Confessing Church’ of Niemoller and Bonhoeffer? Don’t they deserve a mention, along with Catholic and Protestant pastors in France, Belgium, even in Austria. You besmirch the whole church with your wholesale condemnation.
      So to the first sentence of your 4th para. You write, ‘There is a total difference between trying to murder someone and trying to save them’. That is true, but it isn’t the case with the Nazis and the Zionists. Do the research or don’t comment. For the Nazis, the ‘Final Solution’ may have been a logical outcome of their hatred but industrialised murder didn’t become policy until it was forced upon them by the failure of operation Barbarossa. Until that point, the policy was a mixture that included murder, expulsion, work and genetic experimentation – and that applied to all groups targetted by the Nazis, the Jews weren’t actually the first!
      So, if the Nazis came late to the conclusion of wholesale murder, were the Zionists intent on wholesale salvation? Manifestly not. In the period from 1920 to 1938-9 they were mainly interested in immigrants from Western Europe, better still USA, who possessed money of skill. The old and infirm were not welcome unless they had wealth to sustain them. The poor and marginalised from Eastern Europe were regarded with disdain. At least Ben-Gurion was honest about it, although in private. The Haavara agreement was sought by Zionists, who campaigned against an American Jewish boycott of Germany, because it supported their aim.
      So, again: nothing to celebrate. If the church messed up with its anti-Semitism, and it unquestionably did, we continue to mess up by supporting a colonialist enterprise that is openly racist and purposely violent. Jabotinsky’s ‘Iron Wall’ philosophy continues in the behaviour of Israel’s militarised society to this day. Once again to the point; Britain helped get us into the mess that is the Middle East. In support of America, and alongside e.g. Canada and Australia, we continue our colonialist policies of divide and rule.
      One hundred years after Balfour and the British war cabinet got it dreadfully wrong, it is time to put things right for Palestine, not least because the 2000 year old church there is under threat, not largely from Islam, although that may come, but from Zionism.

      • Hi Dave,
        firstly, thankyou for posting my comment! Obviously, it disagrees with you, and you showed real grace in keeping it up! Now, you reference a lot of history, so please forgive the length of my reply!
        You wrote;
        “During WW2 in both France and Germany ordinary priests and people protected Jews, often at their own cost. To ignore that, as you seem to, is the disgrace. … The churches were manifestly not, ‘equally guilty’. What of the ‘Confessing Church’ of Niemoller and Bonhoeffer? Don’t they deserve a mention, along with Catholic and Protestant pastors in France, Belgium, even in Austria. You besmirch the whole church with your wholesale condemnation.”

        In a lecture given in Switzerland in 1946 Pastor Niemöller asserted: “Christianity in Germany bears a greater responsibility before God than the National Socialists, the SS and the Gestapo.” Speaking of the leaders of the churches in Hungary, the most respected historian, Braham concluded: “their common silence emboldened the enemies and discouraged the rescuers of Jewry”. Concerning Poland, Celia Heller wrote: “the Catholic Church was the only force in Poland that might have contained the spread of anti-Semitism. It did just the opposite”. Emanuel Ringelblum wrote that “before the war, the Polish clergy was distinguished for its remarkably anti-Semitic attitude”. Also in Poland, Catholic Action was an active promoter of anti-Semitism.

        Looking at the numbers in Germany, while 4,000 Protestant pastors called on Hitler to increase his severity toward the Jews, only one protested Kristallnacht. The Gestapo knew of only 70 cases in the Munich region (consisting of several million people) who had even spoken out against the treatment of Jews. In 1969, 150 people answered an appeal via the mass media of Austria for people who had aided Jews to reply. Of these, none stated that there act was prompted by Christian motivation. Likewise, in Yad Vashem’s documentation on the Righteous Gentiles identified from Austria, only one gave a Christian motivation for their action.

        Within Poland, roughly 50,000 Poles in some way gave assistance to Jews. Between 900 and 2,000 Poles were executed for such help. While the majority of Poles were Catholic, the majority of Polish rescuers were not motivated by their religion. Indeed, for many, religion was more likely to be an inhibiting factor. “It is, I believe, altogether remarkable that so many thousands, arguably tens of thousands, of Poles risked their lives to save people whom their church’s leaders for years had marked as alien and hostile to Polish interests.” The only rescue organization, Zegota, had no clergy in its leadership, and received no money from the Catholic Church. A number of lower clergy did aid it, however, among other things, passing hundreds of legal Polish birth certificates to Zegota, and then destroying the death certificates. Thirty three priests died as a result of aiding Zegota. In all, 60 Polish clergy were killed for giving aid to Jews (out of a total number of approximately 20,000 clergy) and 10 nuns were also killed for helping Jews (out of a total of 17,000). All Polish rescuers faced incredible danger, and are worthy of the highest admiration. The role of the Catholic Church in this effort does not appear to have been large, and was carried out by members of the lower clergy operating at a local level. There is no evidence at all that the Church leaders, who were well aware of the tragedy, gave any encouragement to such rescue work. “The senior Polish priesthood was hostile toward the Jews—an attitude well known before the war, which, unfortunately, underwent no fundamental change during the occupation.”

        So, what about those Christians who were faithful, who risked their lives to help their Jewish neighbours. The Corrie ten Booms of this world. In the overwhelming number of these cases, the motivation for their action was not a function of their church membership.

        In their own day, the majority of these people were disowned by their churches. It was as individuals that they took action, not as members of an organization. For example, concerning clergymen who aided Jews in Poland: “In almost all cases, their activity was the result of personal initiatives taken by the lower clergy.” They received no encouragement or support, and their behaviour often went directly against the advice of their churches. In a real sense, they were the heretics of their day. Writing in 1963, the German Catholic Carl Amery stated: “If then the Catholic heroes, upon whom so much worth is placed today were prophets, it must be said that they were prophets taking a stand against their own religious milieu fully as much as against the domination of the heretics.” That these same churches now desire to use these “heretics” to define their own behaviour at this time is simple hypocrisy. Chandler states the case well:

        Christians who resisted the terrible manifestations of Nationalist Socialist power stepped out of the heart of the Church and into a bleak and little charted region of moral individualism. They were ruthlessly persecuted, and many were executed. Now we like to think that we have reclaimed one of them, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for the mainstream of Christian identity. In fact, our view of Bonhoeffer has become iconographic, not historical. He has become our definition of the Christian experience of National Socialism, and that is not credible. More than that, he has even become our excuse, our reason not to think. In Bonhoeffer we find Christianity vindicated. Impossible as it may seem, we have even become complacent. Devout Christians who supported Hitler are forgotten, or become crooks.

        N. Tec comments that “pious rescuers had to rely on personal rather than official religious values … moreover, the rescuers who were devout seemed to be devout in a special way. They were independent in their interpretation of religious values, and this independence prevented them from blindly following the teachings of the Church.” Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the villagers of Le Chambon may well turn out to have given the definitive Christian response to the Holocaust. Rescuer Henrietta Wiechertjes-Hartemink commented: “It was a Christian act, done in Christian love.” But the churches cannot appropriate them lightly. For by enlisting them they proclaim that it was in these few heretics (“refreshing exceptions” ), abandoned by their churches, and not in their cathedrals, institutions and parishes, that the body of Christ was to be found. In general, what was done was done by lower clergy and parishioners, not by the leadership. After the war, the bishops found examples like these embarrassing. Bishop Stohr for example, complained that “too often, former concentration camp inmates wrongfully refer to their own experiences with the purpose of setting themselves up as examples of the past. Actually, they were no more courageous than the bishops.”

        Concerning the rescuers, the following statistics have been found; Less than 1% of people who were affiliated with Christianity were rescuers. Church affiliation was the same for rescuers and non rescuers, as was attendance of church schools. More rescuers described themselves as either “very” or “not at all” religious than non rescuers. A surprisingly low percentage of rescuers cite religion as even one of their motivations (12-27%). This is true even with those who defined themselves as “somewhat” to “very” religious. That is, even most “very religious” rescuers did not find in their religion their motivation to rescue, there was no relationship between Christianity and goodness. A Polish rescuer commented: “When I saw all the dying and dead Jews around me, then I thought that Christianity was worthless, then I became convinced that I must save whomever I could.” When Gushee goes on to analyse those for whom faith was important, he notes: “We do so in order to see what we can salvage from the wreckage, not to engage in any kind of misguided and historically unwarranted celebration of Christian moral goodness during WWII.”

        Considering the case of devout Christian rescuers, the researcher Pierre Sauvage posed the obvious question. Were they “rare but legitimately representative embodiments of exemplary Christian faith or merely … marginal, possibly accidental successes of a disastrously ineffective [faith]?.” Note that Gushee does find some hope in the villagers of Le Chambon, and some from the Dutch Calvinists and the Ukrainian Baptists (the Bulgarian Orthodox should also be included). The common thread he identifies here is a history of persecution by the state, so that they were prepared to suffer for the sake of righteousness.

        Put another way, were you a Jew needing help, the knowledge that someone was a Christian, a church goer, devout, would give you no indication either way as to whether he would hand you over or help you. The majority of Jews who were killed in Italy, for example, were turned in by Christians. Estrea Asseo tried to find a refuge for her two children, an eleven year old girl and a four year old boy, from three different church institutions in Avignon, but was turned away by the nuns at each of them. Noting the vast number of Catholics who both directed and performed the killings, M. Phayer writes “The small number of Catholic rescuers are obscured by the mountain of evil cast over them by these perpetrators.”

        The far more appropriate reason for Christian silence about the Righteous Gentiles has been the need for Christians to confess and confront their guilt for the Holocaust rather than to celebrate their handful of heroes. Eva Flieschner, one of the few Christians who has undertaken Righteous Gentile research, has written: “It has always seemed fitting to me that this remembering [of the rescuers] be done by Jews rather than Christians. We Christians have so much to account for vis-à-vis Judaism that is not good, not heroic … it is not for us, I have always felt, to speak of the light.”

        That Jews asked their Gentile neighbours for help is indisputable. Across the whole occupied territory Jews were turning to the Christian population for assistance-in vain.

        “As Hannah Arendt noted, the only case where the Nazis met countrywide resistance and when confronted with this ‘resistance based on principle, their “toughness” had melted like butter in the sun.’” Church complicity had practical consequences:

        German Catholics capitulated to the political demands of Nazi pressure and in the final analysis were indifferent towards Nazi racism. Had the Pope or the German bishops spoken out publicly against the deportation of Jews, for example, some evidence suggests that the German government might have modified its policy … Catholics did not speak, and their behaviour has been questioned since 1945.

        On the Protestant side, in 1945 Niemöller declared:

        There were in 1933 and the following years here in Germany 14,000 Evangelical pastors and nearly as many parishes.. If at the beginning of the Jewish persecutions we had seen that it was the Lord Jesus Christ who was being persecuted, struck down and slain in ‘the least of these our brethren’, if we had been loyal to Him and confessed Him, for all I know God would have stood by us, and then the whole sequence of events would have taken a different course. And if we had been ready to go with Him to death, the number of victims might well have only been some ten thousand.

        This was also the verdict of Paul Tillich, who said as early as March 1942: “The German people have become guilty … they didn’t put up that resistance which would have been possible and which would have frightened off the rulers.” Responding to Niemöller’s confession after the war, Littell wrote:

        If men of such stature, men who have worked tirelessly in the Church Struggle, can look the church’s failure in the eyes and confess their own shortcomings, why should others hesitate? The reason seems to be that the same spiritual weakness that makes some men trimmers and quislings in the hour of decision makes them suppress the critical issues later … [they fail] to understand the signal importance of the rejection of the Jews to the malaise of Christendom.

        With the archives of the Catholic Church in Poland still closed, the Catholic press becomes even more important, as an indicator of what the hierarchy were thinking, while retaining its innate importance as one of the main organs of the church for communication with its members. W. Myslek comments: “In no other country did such a massive Catholic Jew-devouring literature exist as in Poland”. The Catholic daily, the Maly Dziennik had the largest circulation of any newspaper in Poland. It was a high profile shaper of Catholic opinion. It was produced by the Conventual Franciscans, under the surveillance of the bishops and Papal Nuncio. Anti-Semitism was a constant theme in it. Its activities in the area of boycotts and so forth will be referred to later. In 1937, Jews were accused of spreading “moral decay and a spirit of conspiracy against the Polish nation, church and state.” The Catholic youth paper, the Pro Christo, affirmed that the Jews really did sacrifice Christian children at Passover. In 1926, 1929 and 1935 it carried articles to this effect, and quoted the articles in Civilta Cattolica (1881-1882). No Catholic officials charged with the oversight of the paper (or any other officials), objected to these statements. In 1929, the Catholic journal Echo parafialne was produced in the Polish parliament by a Jewish member, objecting to an article in it detailing how Jews capture Christian boys so that they can drink their blood at Passover. In 1932, the popular periodical for priests, the Glos Kaplanski, spoke of the Jews waging a “time immemorial war against the church and the ‘Aryan’ world”.

      • Dear Colin,
        I’m going to allow our reply, lengthy as it is, in the hope that it might be read. These are important pieces of history for us to remember. I shall also allow that your original term may be appropriate, ‘The churches were equally guilty!!’ Where ‘Churches’ refers to the church as ‘organisation’. Even so, I still hold that using the term in the way you did did not do justice to some ofthe people you mention in your latest response, nor to the fact that Britain, and in a sense, USA, were also ‘European’. The ‘Church’ is not an organisation, it is a people, that is why, as a Christian, I cannot be a nationalist.
        But, again, none of this was the point of my post. How will you answer my question, (para 2)? ‘is it seriously your position that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is justified by European anti-Semitism?’ 100 years ago the imperialist British War Cabinet promised a homeland for Jews, protecting the ‘rights and political status enjoyed by Jews’ anywhere, but only ‘without prejudice’ to the ‘civil and reigious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. The language is inherently racist, The Palestinians are merely, ‘non-Jewish’! Edwin Samuel Montagu, the only Jewish member of the British Cabinet, objected, as did most Jews at the time, and many since. And those objections are based on two things; for the religious it is the Torah and Rabbinic teaching since 2nd century AD, for the secular it is their commitment to the justice that is explicit in their community reading of their history.
        Let me repeat what was the point of my original post – not a recapitulation of the sins of Christians throughout the centuries, you have done that for me for the recent past and better than I could have done. My concern was with the suffering of Palestinians and Arabs in the region as a result of Zionism, an ideology that has nothing whatsoever to do with Judaism. It is no point merely apologising for the sins of our fathers unless we are active in putting things right, something which cannot be left to our leaders. We in Britain have a massive debt owed to the people of Palestine, and, as a result of Zionism and its manifestation in Israel, Jews everywhere, especially perhaps in Europe, are now at greater risk than at anytime since 1933.
        When people see helpless civilians being murdered at will; something which our ‘western’ media avoids showing; they are, naturally, angry. It is trite to say, that should not cause violence, the fact is that it is very likely to. Again, and for hopefully the last time, European persecution and murder of Jews cannot justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and Palestinians.

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