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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 44 
In this German woodcut from 1493, Jews are burned alive after having been forced into a pit. The horned hats worn by some of the Jews are symbolic of a presumed shameful stigma borne by all Jews.
Photo: fr. the Schedelschen Wored Chronicles
In the First Crusade, Christians attempted to regain the Holy Land from the Muslims. The Crusade generated massive violence against European Jews, who were characterized as "Christ killers."
Photo: Archive Photos: F11ACGI
Well before the Nazi Party struggled its way into existence in the aftermath of World War I, antisemitism was so entrenched in some Christian-dominated cultures that, with few exceptions, Jews could not be fully included within Western civilization's fundamentally Christian-defined boundaries of moral obligation. Christianity's anti-Jewish ways were not sufficient to cause the Holocaust, but it's doubtful the Holocaust would have happened if it weren't for the long history of Christianity's negative views about the Jews. To clarify these points, it is important to ask about the origins of the Jewish people.

Descending from people who were enslaved in ancient Egypt--sometimes called Hebrews--Jews traditionally trace their origins to the biblical figures named Abraham and Sarah, who lived in Mesopotamia about 4000 years ago. Judaism is rooted in the formative experience of a miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery and in what that tradition takes to be God's ancient revelation to Moses at Mount Sinai more than 3000 years ago. The Ten Commandments, only one of the many civilizing contributions that Jews have given to Western culture, come from those early times. They are part of the Torah, the teachings found in the first five books of Jewish Scripture. The Ten Commandments make clear that the God who bestowed them is an exclusive God: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). The biblical narratives assert that God and Israelites, as the ancient Hebrews came to be identified, were linked by a covenant that included ritual laws and ethical rules. As a result, the life of this people became distinctive and different from other groups around them.

After the revelation at Sinai, 12 Israelite tribes occupied the Mediterranean coastal land of Canaan, which they believed God had promised them. In time they established a nation, with David as their king. Its capital was Jerusalem. Unable to sustain the unity and autonomy it enjoyed from about 1000 to 922 bce, the kingdom was split by internal divisions and then besieged and occupied by a variety of conquerors: the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and eventually the Romans.

In the year 70 c.e., the Romans ruthlessly put down a sustained Jewish rebellion. The Romans' massive reprisals included the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and its Temple, the most sacred Jewish site. Most of the surviving Jews were forcibly dispersed from their traditional homeland to various parts of the Roman Empire. As a result, exiled Jews have lived in European lands--from Portugal and Spain to Poland and Russia, from Greece and Italy to Great Britain, France, and Germany--for more than 2000 years.

 July 18, 1925: Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle) is published.
 1926: Shalom Schwarzbard, a Jew, murders Simon Petliura, the last premier of independent Ukraine; SeeJuly 25-27, 1941.
 1926: In the United States, Father Charles E. Coughlin founds the National Union for Social Justice, an isolationist, antisemitic organization.
 1926: The American Eugenics Society is organized to advance theories of Social Darwinism.
 1926: Jungsturm Adolf Hitler(Adolf Hitler Boys Storm Troop) changes its name to Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth).
 1927: Jewish cemeteries throughout Germany are desecrated by Nazi thugs.
 1927: Legiunea Arhangehelului Mihail (Legion of the Archangel Michael), an antisemitic organization, is established in Romania.
 1927: Glaubensbewegung Deutscher Christen (Faith Movement of German Christians) is founded in order to "Aryanize" German Christianity and remove Jewish influence from German religious life.
 1927: Several synagogues in Oradea, Romania, are destroyed during anti-Jewish rioting that is organized by Romanian students.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 44 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.