International commemoration in Berlin

70 years since the Wannsee Conference 20 January 1942

In December 1941, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Nazi’s Reich Security Main Office, summoned 15 Nazi leaders to a secret meeting at a villa in Wannsee outside Berlin. The meetings was held on 20th January 1942. Heydrich’s objective: to agree a program for the implementation of Hitler’s vision of the “final solution”, the mass extermination of the 11 million Jews living in German-occupied Europe.

The mass execution of Jews in Europe had started much earlier. The Gestapo’s Einsatzgruppen had already carried out mass executions in Ukraine (such as Babi Yar, where on September 29–30, 1941, 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation), Poland and elsewhere. Adolf Eichmann was already experimenting with gassing techniques. 

But at Wannsee, something very significant happened. At Wannsee, as Prof. Gert Weisskirchen put it, the “floodgates of hell” were opened. For the first time, all the various Nazi organisations and ministries were agreed and committed to a program of genocide to extinguish the entire Jewish race within three years, through the strategic use of mass gassings and cremations.

The Nazi’s very nearly succeeded in their plan. In the following three years, more than 6 million Jews were killed on European soil, many of them gassed and cremated at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

Now, 70 years later, many questions remain. How could this have happened? Why did the Church not prevent this happening? Could it happen again? What are we to make of the growing anti-Semitism in Europe and abroad? What role should Christians in Europe play to make sure history does not repeat itself?

Harald Eckert and Christians for Israel Germany were initiators of a series of high-level events in Berlin which were focussed on understanding and dealing with such questions.

On Friday 19th January 2012, at the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche in the heart of Berlin, Jewish and Christian leaders as well as representatives of German and Israeli governments met for a 2 hour ceremony, together with a group of fifteen holocaust survivors from Israel.

– According to well-known historian and former politician Prof. Dr. Gert Weisskirchen, at Wannsee the gates of hell were opened. Although the mass slaughter of Jews started much earlier, Wannsee was so significant because it opened those floodgates. This was only possible because in the preceding years too few Germans had been prepared to guard the gates. We may not allow this to happen again. Today, Iran and its allies are threatening to annihilate Israel again. There are three requirements if we are to avoid a new holocaust: knowledge, feeling and the courage to act. We need to not only understand the past, we need to feel it deeply. There are many signs that the powers of hell are again gathering strength, We must act now to stop the floodgates of hell opening again.

– Bastiaan Belder, member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the EP delegation to the Israeli Knesset, noted that Iran is the newest and most powerful threat to the existence of the state of Israel and the Jewish nation. Europe must do all in its power to prevent this from happening. The survival of the Jewish people and the creation of the modern state of israel is a modern miracle, proof of God’s faithfulness. Europe has a duty because of the past to watch over and protect the Jewish people.

– Ms Lea Shemtov, Knesset member, acknowledged the fact that many holocaust survivors in Israel are living in abject poverty. More needs to be done to help and recognize them. It is terribly important hat Christians and Jews work together to protect our common values. What is happening to israel affects all nations. We need to work together for the blessing of all nations. The Israeli government is appreciative of the support of so many Christians.

– Ms. Gita Koifman representing the holocaust survivors in israel expressed her deep appreciation for the organizers of this event. As a child of 2 years. The youngest of a large family, her mother was murdered and her grandmother beaten to death. The memories remain, we will take them to the grave. But we did not die as a nation. We started a new life, a new community out of the ashes. A community that cares for the poor and weak. Together with those who support us we are strong.

Harald Eckert, Chairman of Christians for Israel Germany (Israel an der Seite Israels) and the European Coalition for Israel (ECI), and the leader of Initative 27 January, spoke passionately of the need to make sure that Wannsee never happens again. Italian author and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi once said: “It happened once, therefore it can happen again”. Today, this statement takes on new meaning. Only 70 years after the Shoah, the existence of the Jewish nation is again under threat. Are we really committed to make sure that history does not repeat itself? There are three dangers we need to face up to:

1. The danger of forgetting. We Germans must pass on the memory of what happened here. That is why Christians for Israel Germany takes regular groups of young people to Israel – to meet with holocaust survivors in Israel, ad to learn about the history of German/Jewish relations. So too in many other countries there is a great need for education about the holocaust.
2. The danger of changing the truth. The impression is created in the secular media that the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel equivalent is to Nazi treatment of the Jews, that is of course a lie. Similarly holocaust denial, which has a following not only in Iran and fundamentalist Islam, but also in the West.
3. The danger of it happening again. We are seeing a rise of militant anti-Semitism, in the form of the Iranian regime and its allies such as Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbollah. Also in Europe there is growing pressure to give inI to these demands.

What can we do? The key is strategic networking. Christians of all denominations, nationalities and backgrounds with a love for the Jewish people must build alliances, partnerships and friendships across borders. I see this happening at two levels:

– Building stronger bonds between Israel and the nations.
– International Christian cooperation.

Andrew Tucker
Executive director Christians for Israel International

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