Holocaust Synchronicity

Last week was my birthday. Martin Luther too was born on that day. Kristallnacht – more appropriately now called The November Pogrom – also occurred then. And I would come to teach the Holocaust at Penn State University because of my going back to grad school at Seton Hall and earning another degree, this one a Masters in Jewish-Christian Studies.

This Sunday, November 21, at 11am Eastern, I invite you to tune in to Seton Hall radio and listen as I am interviewed by Lawrence E. Frizzell, Director of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, and host of The Kinship of Christians and Jews broadcast. Listen at

Seton Hall offers the only Jewish-Christian studies graduate program in the United States. The Institute is committed to developing, encouraging and increasing the collaborative peace-building efforts of Jewish and Christian scholars, theologians, educators and students. Learn more about the Institute here

Life is all about choices. Hitler came to power in a democracy. Jews were singled out legally as the result of national legislation. Leaders can espouse any kind of rhetoric, but it requires ardent, willing followers to bring that rhetoric to fruition. What choices are made—then and today--when we are confronted with violations of justice and human rights?

Martin Luther, as you may know, was a German theologian who protested against some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church (we're keeping it simple here). His protest would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

Our interest here is with his writings, especially Luther's 1543 The Jews and their Lies. Initially tolerant of Jews who also opposed the Catholic Church, Luther expected Jews to convert in support his new vision of Christianity. When Jews did not, Luther turned against them. His vitriol included this advice, taken directly from his writing:

"First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom...

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues....

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them....

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. ...

Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews....

I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects ... must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance...."

Luther, a well-regarded and honored German and clergyman, influenced many a German.

And Kristallnacht? now also called The November Pogrom? The supporters of the Nazi Party platform did just what Luther suggested centuries before. From November 9 into November 10, 1938, synagogues and Jewish shops in Germany and Austria were burned and looted, and Jews arrested. And so escalated the very public persecution of innocent, law-abiding Germans, who were also Jews.

Life is all about choice. Individuals made choices then. Difficult choices? Yes. Choices which might result in death? Yes. Nevertheless, we have choice. Still today and ongoing, we are faced with challenging circumstances. What choices do we make?

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