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Pilgrim to Unholy Places

Christians and Jews re-visit the Holocaust

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Raymond Pelly

Based in New Zealand, the author, an Anglican priest, made a number of pilgrimages 1995–2008 to the extermination (and other camp) sites of the Third Reich, 1933–45. These find expression in Diary entries that describe the sites as they now are and scope the problems they raise for both Jews and Christians. 

The book thus places the Holocaust at the centre of Jewish-Christian dialogue. In face of the silence of God and the choiceless choices of the victims, the central question is how we – Jews and Christians – can talk agency either of God or the inmates. With a view to opening a conversation between Auschwitz and Golgotha, the author invites the Jewish interlocutor into a consideration of the Jewish victim Christ in the ‘no-way-out’ of the cross.

Can there then be mutual recognition between the many Jews of heroic faith and self-sacrificing love in the death camps and the victim caring Christ? Three examples are cited: a Mrs Levy at Auschwitz; the Paris Rabbi, Berek Kofman; and Janusz Korczak at Treblinka. These and others like them embody an ethic of caring that allow us to be hopeful about the modern world.

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10. Auschwitz and Golgotha (1): Analogue or Adversary?

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10. Auschwitz and Golgotha (1)

Analogue or Adversary?

We now move to the risky enterprise of exploring the possibility of Jewish–Christian dialogue around readings of the Passion Narratives of Jesus in the Gospels – in this chapter confined to the Gospel of Mark. This, I realise, is fraught with difficulties. In traditional polemic it is barred on the two main grounds. On the Jewish side, any reading of the Gospels has been made impossible by the Christian accusation of ‘deicide’, not to speak of the anti-Judaic tone of so much material in the Gospels. For Christians, the pain lies in the way Christians, and with them Jesus, have been blamed by Jews for the Holocaust. The accusation of deicide is thus met by that of genocide – the latter in a secular society perhaps weightier than the former. Be that as it may, my gut feeling is that it is time to get beyond these mutually destructive stereotypes and to dialogue our way into something more constructive.

How? One way forward would be for Jewish–Christian dialogue around New Testament texts, the Passion Narratives in particular, to catch up with the findings of recent biblical scholarship. In this regard my own journey began as a student with a reading of Paul Winter’s book, On The Trial of Jesus.138 This showed that the final responsibility for the trial and execution of Jesus lay with the Roman colonial power. Since then, Winter’s work has been enriched through...

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