injustice – elie wiesel

“Injustice may inspire anger or rebellion, but must not create despair.  Injustice has been part of our world since its beginning……..despair is when you no longer believe in anything.” ELIE WIESEL, The Night of the Uprooting

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Dec 25th-Jan6th

Yes, this is an appropriate quote for the season of Christmastide.  Why do we think the concept of a Savior and Deliverer was introduced to the world with the story of Jesus, born in Bethlehem?  Why do we marvel that this babe was announced to shepherds, the lowest class of Hebrew society only a step above lepers?  The world of Judaism 2000 years ago is a case study in oppression and social injustice from not only the Roman conquerors, but also the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Elie Wiesel suffered the most inhumane form of injustice at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of Hitler.  He could not approach the significance of his internment for several years after being freed by the Allied Forces.  Fortunately for us, he eventually saw the writing of his story as a duty to the Jewish nation and the world.  He shared the pain and the horror of the Nazi atrocities in his subsequent books.  Mr. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Any of us today, me included, would surely “be inspired to anger or rebellion” if subjected to the same treatment as the Jews of 1930s and 1940s.  Justifiably so.  But, how many of us would  not curl up in despair?  Whom among us would be able to sustain faith, hope, and love while starving in the humiliation, the cold, the desolation of a prison camp where survival is a daily challenge?  I pray that neither you nor I ever have to suffer those consequences.

Despair is our enemy.  Not having hope is a death sentence of the soul, but faith in the unknowns of this life inspires hope and defeats despair.  The Christmas story, whether I believe it to be reality or you believe it to be myth, tells us how to relate to a world filled with violence, hatred, oppression, intolerance.  The life and teachings of Jesus portrayed by ancient scriptures is a blueprint to living life abundantly with faith, hope, and love in the midst of man’s inhumanity toward man.

We are witness today to unfathomable social injustice which should make us angry and rebellious.  But it does not need to devour us with despair.  That is the essence of the gift presented to us by the birth of a child 2000 years ago.  It is up to you and I to make it a marvelous myth or a life-saving reality.  Our concept of Jesus is hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

Let it be real as the morning sunshine, the stars in the nighttime sky, the singing of angelic children.  Let us discover, now, in the midst of turbulence and injustice the strength of faith, hope and love.  Lead us to defeat despair with the power of his eternal story.

philippians 4:7

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FYI

The Reichstag (Diet of the Realm) was a legislative body of Weimar Germany from 1919 until the Nazi takeover in 1933.  The German Parliament consisted of two Houses, it was a bicameral body as is the Congress of the United States.  All adults, with only a few exceptions, were eligible to vote in a system similar to our electoral college.  As a minimal number of votes were required to gain a seat, it was a legislative body with innumerable voices represented and subsequently

“each political party wanted to pull Germany in a different direction and parties often refused to compromise with, or even recognize, other parties.”

wikipedia

In the election of 1928, the Nazi Party won only 12 seats in the Reichstag making it the smallest of nine parties in the chamber.  Four years later in the election of 1932, the Nazis and the Communists, both having been declared enemies of the parliamentary system, held an absolute majority of the seats.  From 1930 onwards , the parliament was often circumvented by two instruments not strictly provided for by the constitution.

  1. the extensive use of powers granted to the President by the use of the Emergency Decree of Article 48 of the constitution allowing that President to take emergency measures without prior consent of the Reichstag.  This power was understood to include “emergency decrees”
  2. the use of enabling acts of 1919-1923 and then in 1933 after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor.  These acts became an important building block of his dictatorship.  The  Enabling Act of 1933  was an amendment that gave the German Cabinet – in effect, Chancellor Hitler –  the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag.

With this latter enabling act, the Reichstag formally gave up its exclusive responsibility for the exercise of the legislative power.

Reichstag fire

An arson attack on February 27, 1933 at the Reichstag building (home of the German parliament) occurred just one month after Hitler was elected Chancellor.  It was blamed on communist agitators in general although it was later decided that it was the act of a lone council communist.  This, however, provided the fuel that the Nazis needed to sway public opinion in favor of Hitler and the Nazis.

The Reichstag Fire Decree imposed on February 28, 1933 less than a day after the fire, rescinded most German civil liberties , including the rights of assembly and freedom of the press.

Should we learn anything from this piece of history?

  • lack of compromise in the legislative branch
  • economic hardships in search of a scapegoat
  • extreme nationalism
  • civil liberties rescinded
  • freedom of press abolished

In a time period of one month in 1933, Hitler and his white supremacist, nationalist Nazi party transformed Germany from a deeply divided and troubled country, much like ours today, into the dictatorship responsible for over 6 million deaths.