Jewish, Christian Scholars Assess Holocaust to Prevent Repetition

Nearly 400 Christian and Jewish scholars from the United States and Canada who met here this month to discuss the Holocaust agreed that it must be remembered, studied and taught in order to prevent any repetition. The conference, called “The Significance of the Holocaust for Western Civilization,” was sponsored by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; the Universities of Santa Clara and San Jose and the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ).

“The Holocaust presents to Christianity the most serious credibility crisis in history,” said Rev. Franklin Littell, head of the department of religious studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. “We have to face the naked truth that one-third of the world’s Jewish population was murdered by baptized Christians. Herman Goering died a Protestant in good standing. Hitler died a Catholic in good standing.”

Donald McEvoy, NCCJ vice-president, said, “Christians bear much responsibility for the Holocaust, which fed on the church’s centuries-old contempt for Jews.” Several theologians expressed concern about hate-producing Christian texts. “Our scriptures may be the source of Christian anti-Semitism,” said Rev. John Pawlikowski, acting president of Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union. He added, “Are we using the wrong exegesis? Or should the exegesis be changed? Perhaps Christians should stop using parts of the New Testament–like John.”

Dr. Raul Hilberg, political science professor at the University of Vermont, reported on his 30-year study of the complicity between Nazis and the German nation. He documented how the Nazi Party, the German civil service, the army and the industrial network found a willing German middle class. All cooperated to identify and ostracize Jews, to isolate them into ghettos, to transport them to extermination camps, and to devise and carry out methods of mass murder, he said. Some courageous Christians, who protested Hitler’s acts, met the same fate as Jews.

Those who survived death camps suffered permanent, irreparable trauma, said Dr. Samai Davidson, visiting psychiatry professor at Stanford Medical School. “Their particular mental and emotional symptoms–unlike that of other ‘survivors’–are passed on to their children and grandchildren,” he said.

“I’m very glad I came,” said one conference member who seemed to express the prevailing feeling. “It was terribly important. To remember the Holocaust is to remember that we can never again permit ourselves to be indifferent to the suffering of other people.”

Soviet authorities have granted permission to emigrate to Alexander Boguslavsky, whose brother, Victor, had been a Prisoner of Conscience until his release and emigration to Israel in 1973, the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry announced. Permission was also granted to the 48-year-old ship-building engineer’s wife, Irina, and two children, Nina, 17, and Vladimir, 14, thus ending a three-year wait for permission to emigrate.

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