“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” ~ Anne Frank
Stories from World War II are very often staggeringly horrific. These accounts of torture and of the near annihilation of the Jewish people almost never have any glimmer of hope or redemption within them.
Rarely do we have tales of triumph, of hope, and of a love so deep that it had the ability to stop Hitler right in his tracks. The Nazis were a war machine that no one thought could be stopped. However, one often-overlooked event did just that, saving thousands of Jewish lives.
While in Berlin we made a quick stop on our drive through the city to see where this story took place. We visited the tiny street called Rosenstrasse.
The anti-Semites of World War II persecuted the Jews because of their “defiling” Jewish blood, which threatened the preservation of the Aryan “master” race. Thus, Jews who were married to Gentiles and the children who were products of those unions—called Mischlinge (“mixed race” or “half breeds”)—were the most despised by the Nazis. They were a pollution of the “superior” Aryan race. However, because of their German affiliations, these Jews were put on the back burner of the Final Solution so as not to raise German eyebrows or cause social and political unrest.
Since this was a tinderbox issue, the Nazis would encourage, and sometimes even threaten the German wives to divorce and abandon their Jewish husbands, leaving any children they might have. When they did divorce, their Jewish husbands and children were immediately sent to the ghettos or concentration camps for almost certain death without any German protest.
On Saturday, February 27, 1943, the Gestapo rounded up approximately two thousand Jews from the streets of Berlin and put them into the Jewish Community welfare office on Rosenstrasse. The Gentile wives of these Jews waited all day at home for the return of their loved ones, but they never came. When they eventually found out where their Jews were being held, the women went to this tiny street, yelling at the Gestapo, who had large machine guns pointed at them, and they demanded to have their husbands, their Jews, returned to them.
The Third Reich had feared this kind of political unrest. Germans protesting in favor of the Jews. This was the worst possible thing that could have happened.
After nearly two weeks of protesting all day, every day, in the freezing German winter, the Gestapo released the Jews who were imprisoned in this building. They had planned to deport them to Auschwitz and other death camps, but the Gentile spouses made it politically impossible for them to do so. While releasing some of the Jewish men, one German soldier is said to have proudly remarked to a Jew about the women’s dedication, saying, “See, this is German loyalty.”
An Example for Us
This story is a beautiful one, and the only recorded account of the Gestapo releasing thousands of Jews instead of exterminating them. The Gentile spouses of these Jews were their saviors, their defenders, their beloved wives.
This is a beautiful picture of what Jews and Gentiles can look like within the Messianic Jewish movement. We oftentimes say that we are brothers, but in many ways our relationship is on a different level of intimacy. We are spouses who have chosen each other and have committed to remain together, until death do us part. Being together with our different backgrounds may be at times a challenging task, yet it is beautiful, produces new life, and brings salvation.
These Gentile women stood as proud Germans and called, or rather demanded, for their Jews to be returned to them. With their determination and unflinching conviction they saved nearly two thousand Jewish souls from Hitler’s gas chambers. They decided to remain with their Jewish husbands, in their Jewish households, and to fight on their Jews’ behalfs.
This is a figurative picture of the Gentile in Messianic Judaism, being in a “Jewish home,” so to speak—i.e., apart of the commonwealth of Israel—and protecting their Jewish people. Had these women not stood up for their Jews, had they divorced them when trouble came about, then we would have to add these two thousand to the already insurmountable death toll of the Holocaust. Gentiles who are a part of the commonwealth of Israel, loving and defending the Jewish people, are a picture of the kingdom. This is the ideal.
Messianic Judaism, much like these Jews on Rosenstrasse, has survived primarily because of the faithful Gentiles who have stood by our side and walked this bumpy road with us, establishing us, and defending us from outside forces. Gentiles become an integral part of Messianic Judaism, making it the most unique and redemptive form of Judaism there is—a Judaism that presumes in its very essence to redeem and renew the whole world.
This is a story of triumph and life instead of death and defeat. The crematoriums did not get their chance to incinerate these two thousand Jewish people, and Hitler’s goal of erasing all Germany’s Jews did not come to fruition. This story could have taken a completely different turn, but because of Gentiles standing with and remaining united with their Jews, many lives were saved.