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Against Impossible Odds

January 21, 2016

Dear Friend of Israel,

In his book, Crusade in Europe, General Dwight David Eisenhower wrote of his first experience encountering a Nazi death camp:

“The same day [April 12, 1945] I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency. Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however, that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.” He later added, ““Of all these [Displaced Persons] the Jews were in the most deplorable condition. For years they had been beaten, starved, and tortured.”

It is to Eisenhower’s credit that he felt the need not only to visit the camps to experience firsthand the horrors the Nazis inflicted on so many people, but to document those visits with film and photos, so that the world would not believe that the stories about the camps were simply propaganda. Indeed, this footage and the photos were later used by prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials and helped to convict many war criminals.

Since that time, Holocaust memorials and museums have sprung up across the world. Israel has its own Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), which begins this year at sundown on May 4. And, in November 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 – the date in 1945 of the liberation of the notorious Nazi death camp at Auschwitz – as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. While the U.N.’s effort to commemorate the Holocaust is admirable, it is a sad irony that, throughout its existence, the U.N. has consistently shown a harsh bias against the state that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust: Israel. In fact, last November, the U.N. adopted six resolutions criticizing Israel – and none against any other country in the world.

Think of it: As the radical Islamists of ISIS spread unspeakable terror around the world, as Hezbollah continues to sow discord and instability in Lebanon, as a bitter Syrian civil war continues to create hundreds of thousands of refugees, as human rights abuses occur throughout the Middle East, the U.N. could think of only one country in the region worthy of censure – Israel. It is a measure of this world governing body’s moral backwardness that such a situation could exist.

And yet, on January 27 I will choose to think not of the folly of the United Nations, but of the millions of those innocents murdered by the Nazis, and will bless their memory in prayer. I will think of those people, many of whom were Christians, who put their lives on the line so that Jewish people might live – of Raoul Wallenberg, of Andre and Magda Trocmé, of Corrie ten Boom, and many others. And I will be thinking of those who survived and are still struggling not just with bitter memories, but with crippling poverty. It is these survivors that IFCJ is committed to helping, not just to survive, but to thrive, in their final years.

No amount of the United Nations’ harsh, misbegotten judgements on Israel can denigrate the memory of those who died and those who resisted, and no resolution can take away the dignity of those who lived through this terrible chapter in history. Those memories, and those lives, stand as a harsh rebuke to a world governing body, founded with great optimism and the best of intentions, which consistently fails to support Israel, the one country in the Middle East that embodies the values of democracy, individual liberty, and human rights that the U.N. claims to represent. So, on January 27, let us all take a moment to remember those who died, those who fought evil against seemingly impossible odds, and those who miraculously survived.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein reading Bible in Jerusalem

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