As the world commemorates the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp 65 years ago, it’s also important to understand, and remember, what was it that drove the Germans and their helpers in the various countries they invaded to perpetrate the Holocaust.
In Germany they evolved the ancient hatred toward Jews into something modern, secular, and pseudo-scientific, something the post-Enlightenment, highly cultured German people could accept as a replacement for the old Christian antisemitism. By the time Hitler came to power the racial underpinnings of his antisemitism were so strong no one in Germany thought of the old theological animosity. To 20th century Germans, the Jews were hateful for causing the loss of WWI, for being racially inferior, for Bolshevism and—simultaneously—for capitalism. To those Germans, however, any message of hatred that conformed with their worldview formed by almost two thousand years of Christian teachings about Jews made sense and was acceptable.
Elsewhere in Europe, particularly in the East where the genocide took place and where the Germans found no shortage of auxiliaries for the genocidal duties that took place behind the front lines, the situation was different. Neither the Poles, nor the Lithuanians, nor the Ukrainians, nor any of the others who willfully collaborated in the execution of the “Final Solution” had been brain-washed by Nazi racial propaganda. In those countries the locals hated Jews for the same reasons other Europeans had hated Jews since the time of Emperor Constantine: for killing Christ, for poisoning wells, for bringing about the Black plague, for killing young Christian boys to extract their blood to make Passover bread, for being minions of the devil, for being greedy money-lenders (conveniently forgetting it was Christian laws that pushed Jews into that profession to start with), and any number of other baseless accusations.
So, now that the world is paying attention at the result of this hatred when looking-in through the old electrified fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau, we should not forget where antisemitism came from, and recognize that part of that foundation is still in place in Christianity.