This coming Sunday is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a time set aside to recall the horror of the Holocaust so that we might work to see that it is not repeated.
Hitler and his cronies managed to convince many, many people that Jews were somehow less than fully human--that they threatened the well-being of the state. The way, the Nazis argued, to protect the state was to isolate the Jews. So over a period of only a few years, various laws were passed which created a very clearly second-class citizenship for Jews. And to make certain everyone knew who the Jews were, each and every Jewish individual was required to wear a yellow star of David.
A yellow star may seem a little thing, but it led, eventually to Auschwitz. And so the question we must ask, if we are to learn anything from all this, is where are the yellow stars in our lives? Where and how are we labeling and branding people? What divides us one from the other.
One of the many films that documents part of the story of the Holocaust is The Hiding Place. It is the story of a Christian Dutch family named ten Boom that hid Jews during World War II and helped them escape from Nazi persecution.
The early part of the film documents the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands and shows how the anti-Semitic policies of Hitler were put in place. In one scene the camera zooms in on a line of people waiting to receive their yellow star. Standing in the line is Papa ten Boom--but he is a Christian. Standing beside him is one of his Jewish neighbors. He turns to Papa ten Boom and says, "You shouldn't be here."
Ten Boom replies, "I've come for my star."
"They are for Jews," says his neighbor, "You don't have a J on your card."
"You could get it for me," replies ten Boom, "If we all wear them they won't know a Gentile from a Jew."
Ten Boom did get a star--and he wore it. And, in time, he was caught rescuing Jews, and was shipped off to one of the camps where he died.
We may not be called to, as Papa ten Boom was, to risk our lives. But we are called to make meaningless the yellow stars that exist in our own day. We are called to work towards a time when all people are treated fairly and equally. Not just on Yom HaShoah, but every day.