Steph Cottam has recently been exploring the CMJ archives* held at Bodleian Library in Oxford. As the Annual Conference Manager, she learnt an interesting lesson about one of our previous conferences:

Just before the outbreak of WWII, the CMJ Committee had established an Emergency Committee who would continue the ministry of CMJ until the war was over. The emergency committee would act on behalf of the council, staff, missionaries and supporters in the hope that we would be able to continue where we left off after the War for it was the very people we had been called to serve desperately needed our help as Nazi Germany advanced through Europe.

I read the beautifully hand-written minutes and was interested to read the reports of an interview the committee conducted with Dr. C Hoffmann in September 1938, who had witnessed first-hand the recent experiences and sufferings of Jewish people of Germany and Austria. “Goering had stated that within four years, Austria was to be cleared of Jews, and it looked as if this would be carried out.” Hoffmann went on to say, “As an example, USA were prepared to grant 6,000 permits [to the Jews who were looking to leave the Country] through its Consul in Vienna, but in August last, there were 70,000 applications, and through Berlin 3,000 permits, but the applications numbered 20,000, and no more applications could be entertained before March 1939.

“Jewish businesses were being steadily ‘Aryanised’, the owners were forced to sell at nominal prices and owners and employees were thrown out… Apart from specifically Jewish schools, there was no possibility of education for non-Aryan children, who were not even allowed to have special schools started for them.” (note: Part of CMJs mission prior to the war included the establishment of schools)

“…the torture of soul was leading to hundreds of suicides.”

This aspect of what Jewish people suffered isn’t really thought about, not just that they were murdered in the concentration camps and ghettos, but that God-fearing men and women were hounded to their death – even through suicide – just for being Jewish.

As I consider the relationship between the suffering of Jewish people then and the ongoing hatred of anti-Semitism today, I wonder not so much whether the holocaust could ever happen again, but how many people continue to experience the “torture of the soul” leading to suicide?

Reader Response to Bodleian Blog part 2:

I was just reading your Bodleian Blog and came across your article on Holman Hunt’s painting, The Light of the World.  I left Jerusalem over twenty years ago, but for two or three years I lived in the hostel of the Sisters of St Joseph, which is in 66 Prophets Street, right next door to Holman Hunt’s house. I gather that apart from being an artist he was also an architect and that he lived in that house for a couple of years. Whilst I was living in No 66, somebody did a spring clean of the Holman Hunt house and believe it or not found the actual lamp which he used in that portrait. Just looked up Holman Hunt’s house, Jerusalem online and it is 64 Prophets Street.

In Jesus Hannah S.

Posted by Steph Gutmann on .