An Interfaith Website for Christian-Jewish Relations


In Memoriam
Dr Jacobus Coos Schoneveld (27-1-1934 - 12-3-2015)
Former Secretary General of the ICCJ

CCCJ Archives Stored at the Glenbow Museum

Some readings,
Holocaust Remembrance Service, May 25, 2011

How Jewish Children Survived By David Gravells

This evening I want to honor the devotion of one of the many honest people like Nicholas Winton, who by himself was able to save 669 Czechoslovakian children from concentration camps and death.

In 1938 Germany entered Czechoslovakia, to quickly convert parts of Slovenia into Sudetenland, with Fascism as its culture. Antisemitism forced Jews to protect their children from being hurt by their government through discrimination against Jews and the threat of deportation into concentration camps.

In 1907 Nicholas’ Jewish parents had moved to the UK and had converted to Christianity. He too had been baptized after his birth in 1909. As an adult he went to Prague to meet a friend. While there, he organized a system to send Jewish children to Britain. On Wenceslas Square he set up an office dedicated to helping Jewish parents to send their children by train to England under the care of Nicholas Winton. He continued this cause, until war was declared. Through his actions he would eventually save 669 children.

On the 1st of September 1939 the last of the childrens transport trains left Praque with 250 children, but it was returned because the Germans had invaded Poland.

Nicholas never spoke about what he had done, it was his secret. Grete, his wife, found his written records hidden in their attic. The BBC in 1988 revealed what he had done and produced a program. Twenty five of the children met Winton at this show. He was knighted by the Queen in 2002, when he was 93 years old. 
In 2008 he was honored by the Czech government, and Czech Astronomers named a minor planet after him, nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the Cross of Merit.

In 2009 a celebrated steam train carried survivors from Prague. The Queen spoke to him, and about him in Bratislava and Joe Schlesinger, a CBC reporter and one of Winton's children was there, whose story honors all the incredibly dedicated people known, that devoted their lives to defy antisemitism, and to save the lives of so many Jews.

Patrick Walsh read the following

William Wordsworth, the great English Romantic poet, wrote:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!

That Covenant is with “every living creature” and “all generations.”

That’s you – and me – all of us – brothers and sisters — now and in all ages.

But in the time of the Shoah, an anti-rainbow of the forces of darkness hovered over our world. It was not red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, but Green, Red, Black, Pink, and Yellow. These were the colors of the armbands of prisoners in the Nazi death camps. The Six Penal categories were 

Green for ordinary criminals,
Red for political prisoners,
Black for asocials [slackers, prostitutes, procurers, etc.],
Pink for homosexuals, and 
Yellow for Jewish people.

The Nazi extermination program has been likened to a large fishing net sweeping across the world, snaring people of many backgrounds.

We know that the Jewish People were the single most persecuted group by the Nazis. But other groups based on kinship, religion, nation, or other identity, were also persecuted by the Nazis.

These forgotten millions included Communists, Czechs, Greeks, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, mentally and physically handicapped, Poles, resistance fighters, Russians, Serbs, Socialists and Communists, Spanish Republicans, Trade Unionists, Ukranians, Yugoslavians, Prisoners of War of many nations, and still others whose identity may never be recognized.

Our common “otherness” – the fact that we differed from the perverse Aryan ideal – is what called for annihilation.

The common denominator for all the victims was DEATH – and they were all brothers and sisters – as we are today – in that common destiny.

One noble brother and friend of all was Maxmillian Kolbe, born in Poland in 1894. In 1907 Kolbe joined the Conventual Franciscans and went to Rome, where he obtained doctorates in both philosophy and theology and was ordained to the priesthood. In 1927 he founded a monastery near Warsaw, where during World War II he sheltered 2000 Jewish refugees – because “all men are our brothers.”

On February 17, 1941, Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo, and on May 28, ended up at Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.

When three prisoners disappeared from the camp, Camp Commander SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, picked ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one man, Francis Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!” Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

In the bunker, Kolbe led the men in song and prayer and encouraged them, telling them they would soon be in heaven.

After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so Kolbe raised his arm and calmly waited for the lethal injection of carbolic acid – becoming a man who laid down his life for his friend, his brother under Adonai/God.

On October 10, 1982, Fr. Maxmillian Kolbe was canonized a martyr by Pope John Paul II.

In the words of Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff.

Let us pray that if the day has not yet dawned when we can see the face of God in others, then we see, at least, a face as human as our own. Lord, help us keep faith the day will dawn when justice flows - for ALL - like mighty waters, when liberty will be proclaimed throughout the land, when every man or woman can stand tall, and none shall be afraid. And may we say, Amen.

May the rainbow of Noah shelter us again.

The story of the man for whom Fr. Kolbe offered his life is reported on Wikipedia: Franciszek Gajowniczek

Report Annual Fall dialogue at St. Cecilia's
Professor Doris Bergen addressing the fall dialogue of the Council of Christians and Jews in Calgary. November 1, 2009.

Prof's. Myron Weber and Doris Bergen
Photo: David Gravell
The annual fall dialogue of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews Alberta Region took place this year on November 1 at St. Cecilia’s Parish and featured Dr. Doris Bergen, professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on issues of religion, gender and ethnicity in the Holocaust. Her topic, “Mothers and Daughters in the Holocaust: Maintaining Bonds of Affection for Personal and Communal Survival,” encouraged a lively discussion among the many Christian and Jewish participants in the forum.

 One of the table dialogue groups. Photo: David Gravell
The event was enhanced through a brief performance by cantorial soloist Rebecca Levant.

In addition, Halley Girvitz was honoured for the many contributions of her late father, Sid Macklin, for both the Jewish and the broader community in Calgary.

Professor Bergen, who grew up in Lacombe, Alberta, gave other talks while in the city. She is a widely published researcher and author, including studies on the German Christian movement during the Third Reich and the role of Christian military chaplains in the German army in World War Two.

With kind permission: Richard Bronstein, The Jewish Free Press, November 20, 2009

Report Holocaust Remembrance Service
April 29, 2009, 7: 30 p.m.
Lutheran Church of our Saviour, Calgary

I had the distinct privilege of attending CCCJ-AB’s annual Holocaust remembrance service, co-sponsored with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; it was one of the most moving and compassionate services I have ever had the opportunity of attending. It provided a unique opportunity and challenge as noted by the old saw, “those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” The centre of the commemoration was the lighting of six candles in memory of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, including 1.5 million children, and a seventh candle to remember the millions of other minorities murdered by the Nazis.

Lighting of the first candle, in memory of helpless infants, children and teenagers, was accompanied by the song "Ani Ma’Amin", an affirmation of faith sung by Jews even as they were marched to the gas chambers. It was movingly sung by the Cantare Children's Choir, brilliantly conducted by its founder and artistic director, Catherine Glaser-Clime. Many in the audience were moved to tears by their performance.

Following an opening prayer and confession asking for forgiveness of sins, the second candle was lit in memory of mothers who died with their children in their arms, followed by the Cantare Children’s Choir's spirited rendition of Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem, and a poignant reading from Elie Wiesel’s “Night.”

The third candle was lit in memory of all mothers and fathers who were cruelly separated from their families, followed by the reading of the 23rd psalm, both in Hebrew and English. The lighting of the fourth candle, in memory of all scholars, teachers, and rabbis were the first to be seized, was followed by a reading from "The Hiding Place " by Corrie Ten Boom and another plaintive song by the Cantare Children’s Choir, "When I am Silent" by Joan Varner.

The keynote speaker of the evening, Dr. Sid Cyngiser, spoke movingly of life in the concentration camps, of his lost of family, the horrendous circumstances he had to endure, and of the indomitable spirit and faith which allowed him to survive the unspeakable conditions of the camps. As he so movingly emphasized, when ignorance and hatred are allowed to fester, the result can lead to unimaginable consequences.

Candle 6 was then lit in memory of the martyrs, both Jews and righteous gentiles, who gave their lives to help their brothers and sisters under the Nazis; and candle 7, in memory of the countless others killed in the concentration camps. Cantare Children’s Choir then beautifully performed Randall Stroope’s "I Had a Paint Box", a prayer for peace, followed by a Congregational hymn, "O Day of Peace" and Congregational Prayers.

Cantare’s moving performance of Paul Read’s "Birdsong", drawn from the words of a child interred at the Terezin concentration camp, celebrates life and the beauty of the world, rather than the horrors of the camp. An expression of thanks to participants and the audience was followed by the Jewish evening prayer, "Hashkivenu" in both English and Hebrew, performed beautifully by Rebecca Levant, Cantorial Soloist. The program concluded with a benediction.

A bouquet was presented to Bronia and Sid Cyngiser in honor of the many services they have provided to the community, and their witness to the Holocaust and the indomitable spirit they displayed in surviving its horrors. Flowers were also presented to Catherine Glaser-Clime in appreciation for her magnificent Choir’s presentation. She spoke touchingly about her own experiences, including a trip to Auschwitz concentration camp with a touring choir at age 16, and of her plans to travel to Germany with her choristers to provide them with the opportunity for similar insight. She emphasized how her early experiences had molded her determination to make a difference through promoting harmony among diverse cultural communities.

The evening concluded with a reception and the opportunity to discuss with the over 200 participants the meaning and implications of this intense, but uplifting, program. The audience expressed their appreciation for the chance to share this difficult, but important, memorial to those who cannot speak and to bear witness by their presence to the focus of the evening, “We shall remember and never forget.”

Myron Weber