By Larry Peterson
The words--annihilation, extermination, carnage, and slaughter, to name a few, are synonyms for the word "Holocaust". The word "genocide"not invented until 1941, fits right in there. But none of those words bring us to the core of what those words truly represent. They are the by-product of the malevolent, hideous, and hate filled evil that consumes and takes control of certain human beings.
During the 20th century, seven periods of genocide took place. Beginning with the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1918, moving to the Holocaust of 1938 -1945, seeing the horrors of Rwanda in 1995 and jumping forward to today's worldwide daily carnage, what has changed? Not a damn thing.
The pages of history are filled with countless numbers of people who have seen fit to perform evil, vicious acts against those of their own kind. It defies logic, common sense, and so many other traits that are part of the human condition. Supposedly "good" people, upstanding citizens, if empowered and able to hide behind a mantra of legality, turn on their own kind and subject them to the most incredulous pain and suffering they can conjure up. How many Nazi war criminals used the excuse of "just following orders" to justify their actions?
But we lose a sense of the horror when we talk about the "millions" of innocents annihilated. We somehow need to look at individual people to grasp a sense of what did happen and is happening up and including this very day. In fact, history proves that the our humanity is tied together with our ancestors, those part of our present and those that will follow us in the future.
In early April I wrote about the only nun ever sentenced to death by a Nazi court. Her name was Sister Maria Restituta (now Blessed Maria). Blessed Maria's "crime" was that she refused to remove Crucifixes from hospital bedrooms. I would now like to mention the very first priest to die in a Nazi concentration camp. Just like Blessed Maria he was also born in Austria. His name was Otto Neururer.
Father Neururer was a parish priest and a young woman came to him seeking advice. She wanted to know whether or not she should marry a divorced man. The man had a shady past and Father Otto advised her against the marriage. She told this man what Father had told her and he promptly went to his friend who was a high ranking Nazi official in the area. Father Neururer was arrested for "slander to the detriment of German marriage" and sent to Dachau Concentration Camp. From Dachau he was sent to Buchenwald which was under the command of Martin Sommer aka "The Hangman of Buchenwald".
While at Buchenwald, Father Neururer performed a "forbidden" Baptism. He was caught, sent to the punishment block and Martin Sommer decided to have him hung upside down. Father Neururer was left that way until he died 36 hours later. He was 58 years old and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996.
Demonstrating the connection from yesterday to today and onward to tomorrow let us jump ahead to April 7, 2014. The place is Homs, Syria. Creatures of habit, most of us more than likely went through our usual daily routine of showering, brushing our teeth, having coffee, getting dressed and doing the things we usually do in whatever order we do them which is unique to each of us as individuals.
And then there were those that did not have an ordinary kind of day. One of them was Father Frans Van der Lugt a 75 year old Jesuit who had spent 50 years in Syria helping the poor and needy. This day would be his last.
On Monday morning, April 7, masked assailants stormed into the monastery where Father Frans was tending to the remaining few dozen Christians left in Homs, (down from the 60,000 a few years earlier). These ISIS cowards dragged the 75 year old priest from the church, beat him mercilessly and then shot him in the head, killing him.
Father Fran's crime was for being a Catholic priest and serving Jesus and loving his neighbor. What was Father Otto's crime 70 years earlier? He was a Catholic priest serving Jesus and loving his neighbors. And dear Blessed Maria, she was just a Catholic nun and a nurse who loved Jesus and was beheaded for refusing to remove a Crucifix from a hospital wall.
To tie the entire century together lets not forget the Armenian Martyrs of 1915 thru 1918. Being part of the Judeo-Christian world means we must always be prepared and always be ready to stand up for God and Jesus and Goodness. Not one of those mentioned and the millions of their murdered brethren ever thought a day like that would come their way. Were they all ready to die for their faith? Would you or I be ready? Maybe it is time for ALL of us to think about that.
©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved