80 years ago, on November 9 1938, with concerted action carried out by the National-Socialist regime throughout the territory of the German Reich, synagogues were desecrated and destroyed, people of Jewish background were persecuted, tortured and killed. The November pogrom is one of the darkest pages in modern history. All of Austria, Vienna in particular, was involved, and the life of a great Jewish Community, was reduced to ashes and buried. The pogrom night was to be the first sigil of the unimaginable abyss of the Shoah, that brought death and annihilation to millions of Jews with the purpose of wiping Jewish life off the face of earth.
Living memory paves the way to the future, for looking into the dark pages of history protects us from repeating the mistakes of the past.
Pope Francis underlined it a few days ago, as he reiterated once again: “A Christian cannot be an anti-Semite!”, commemorating the memory of the November pogroms. The Christian Churches of Austria unequivocally stand beside the Jewish Community and their steadfast religious fidelity. Even more clearly than 80 years ago, Christians today are aware that in Judaism reside the roots of their faith. Whenever the Jewish faith in the One and Almighty is despised and destroyed, we Christians lose the fountainhead that nourishes our life.
The memory of the pogroms of November 1938 and the suffering of the Jewish people, for Christians and for the Churches, is linked to the painful acknowledgement of multiple failures: for too long centuries-old anti-Jewish religious sentiment weakened those forces needed to resolutely oppose, as Christians, the madness of National-Socialism and anti-Semitism.
Too feeble were the voices that condemned the injustice of the November pogroms, inside and outside the Church alike.
Indeed, there were Christians who stood beside the Jews, helped them and saved their lives, but they were too few. Too few were the righteous ones.
Since then, and notably with the Second Vatican Council, the awareness the inexhaustible fidelity of God to his people, and the brotherhood of Christians and Jews rooted in the faith, constitute the solid foundation of mutual dialogue. The bishops are grateful for this and for the Jewish-Christian friendships that ensued. They are a gift and they should give Christians and Jews the strength to undertake decisive actions against all forms of anti-Semitism, promoting the human right to religious freedom, here and across the globe.