Tag Archives: concentration camp

Holocaust Day (short piece for ‘Life & Work’ – the Church of Scotland monthly magazine)

Come with me to a place of horror and almost tangible evil. It’s early in the morning of the last day of 2016, and it’s cold with thick frost lying on the ground.

It’s chilling; not just physically, but spiritually. This is Auschwitz, and I’m visiting the notorious concentration camp.

When I was a Parish Minister, the congregations I served didn’t mark Holocaust Day (27 January – the day on which Auschwitz was finally liberated).

Why not? I don’t know. Perhaps because we are somewhat inured to the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jewish, Roma, Polish and other innocents. Perhaps it’s because it seems so far away in time.

But I would defy anyone who has felt the chill of Auschwitz or any of the other places of horror associated with the Nazi persecution, who has seen what’s left of the gas chambers, or the piles of shoes or the collection of battered suitcases on show in Auschwitz, not to be moved.

It is a salutary reminder of the inhumanity of wicked men that we should note and note well.

As it happens, I will be leading worship (as Pulpit Supply) on the Sunday before Holocaust Day in January and will certainly now meditate with the congregation on the hellishness of what was perpetrated back then, and pray that it is never repeated (although, tragically, there have been too many incidences of ethnic cleansing since).

I would hope that other ministers and worship leaders would do so also………

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Visit to Auschwitz- 31 December, 2016

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January 4, 2017 · 11:35

Irena Sendler 2

Irena Sendler 2


 For once, the term “heroine” is no exaggeration, though such plaudits did not sit easily with her. She said: “I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality.
She was beaten, tortured and sentenced to death by the Gestapo  –  who even announced her execution. But Irena survived, her spirit unbroken, her secrets untold. She sadly passed last week after saving over 2500 Jewish children but died wishing she’d rescued more…

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July 22, 2013 · 11:31

Waiting for the Messiah

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who was arrested by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp.

In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” he describes the sufferings that Jews endured in those camps, and, perhaps surprisingly, he says that one of the worst sufferings was that of waiting:

  • waiting to learn what happened to loved ones
  • waiting to learn one’s own fate
  • waiting to be gassed or otherwise executed
  • waiting to be rescued

This terrible waiting, he says, affected prisoners in different ways: some lost hope and despaired; others lost faith and stopped believing.  But others continued to wait and pray.  They never lost hope, they never despaired, they never lost faith.

What was true of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany was also true of the Jews in ancient Palestine who also suffered from political oppression and from the pain of waiting – in this case waiting for the coming of the Messiah…..

…..the Messiah who would be the promised one, the King of whom the prophets said:

“Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot of David….and this is the name they shall give him: ‘The Lord our justice’” (Jeremiah 23, 5-6)

When the Messiah didn’t come, ancient Jews responded as did modern Jews: some lost hope; others lost faith; but others continued to wait and to pray.

Then out of the desert came a man named John whose message was like that of the prophets of old.

“Repent!” he said, “turn away from your sins!”  The Kingdom of Heaven he was indication was at hand.

Excitement rolled across the land and many people began to think that this was the promised one, the Messiah.

But John put them right.  He was the forerunner of someone greater.  He was the one of whom the prophet Isaiah was speaking when he said:

“A voice crying in the wilderness: Get the road ready for the Lord; make a straight path for him to travel!”

Prepare the way of the Lord.

Prepare for the coming of the Promised One, the Messiah!

Prepare with every fibre of your being as if your life and your eternal happiness depended on it – as indeed they do!

There’s an old story that illustrates the kind of jolting impact that John was trying to make on people’s thinking.

There once was a fabulously wealthy king who lived in a beautiful palace.  But in spite of his wealth, he had a simple heart and a deep, sincere desire to find God.

He read books, he consulted wise men, he prayed in the gold-covered palace chapel – but with no success.

Then, one night, while lying in his satin bed, he was wondering why he was having such trouble finding God, when suddenly he heard a terrible racket on the roof of the palace.

He went to the balcony and shouted, “Who’s up there?  What’s going on?”

A voice, which he recognised as belonging to a hermit who lived in a forest nearby, shouted back, “I’m looking for my goat; she’s lost and I’m trying to find her”

The king was angry at hearing such a ridiculous response and shouted back, “How can you be so stupid as to think you’ll find your goat on the roof of my palace?”

The hermit shouted back, “And you, Your Highness, how can you be so stupid as to think that you’ll find God while dressed in silk pyjamas and lying on a bed of solid gold?”

The story ends by saying that those simple words of the old hermit jarred the king so severely that he rose from his bed and, eventually, became a great saint.

This was what John was trying to do – he was trying to jar people out of their beds of apathy and complacency.  He was trying to get them to prepare for an event that was imminent and one that they hadn’t dreamed possible.

The very Son of God was about to enter human history and be born as a baby – not dressed in silk pyjamas and lying on a bed of solid gold, but dressed in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

May the simple words of John the Baptist jolt us from our beds of indifference and complacency and jar us into realizing that the kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand.

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A Poem of Belief

  • These words were written by a Jewish prisoner on a wall in a Nazi Concentration Camp in Cologne during World War II

    A Poem About Belief By a Jewish Prisoner in a Nazi Concentration Camp


    A Poem About Belief By a Jewish Prisoner in a Nazi Concentration Camp

    “I believe in the sun
    even when it is not shining
    And I believe in love,
    even when there’s no one there.
    And I believe in God,
    even when he is silent.

    I believe through any trial,
    there is always a way
    But sometimes in this suffering
    and hopeless despair
    My heart cries for shelter,
    to know someone’s there
    But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
    my child, I’ll give you strength,
    I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.

    I believe in the sun
    even when it is not shining
    And I believe in love
    even when there’s no one there
    But I believe in God
    even when he is silent
    I believe through any trial
    there is always a way.

    May there someday be sunshine
    May there someday be happiness
    May there someday be love
    May there someday be peace….”

    thank you, Jackie Wright, for writing these inspirational words in the card you gave me

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