- by Mary Ann Kaiser -
The courage it takes for Manosevitz to come to a Christian seminary to teach about the Holocaust is something I will forever respect. She taught us, as Christians, about the great need for healing work between the Jewish and Christian community. We learned, however, that one of the difficulties in making this happen is that many of us Christians are not willing to own up to our own role – of silence, of apathy, of our scriptures and bad theology – in this gruesome history. If we are ever to be truly open to reconciliation with a people group we have deeply wronged, we must first hear the stories and learn the history and then take up our responsibility with humility and hope.
Today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marks 67 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. If there’s one thing I learned from Manosevitz, it’s the importance of remembering and retelling the stories of this day. Through the stories, we can honor the victims of the Holocaust, create space for healing, and prevent its possibility of recurrence. We must keep listening and keep sharing stories of this not too distant past.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have learned from Manosevitz about what the Jewish community endured in the Holocaust – a uniquely horrific experience. Alongside what I have learned from her and now reflect on often, I wish I also knew more about the so-called “forgotten victims” which includes the disabled, gays, Poles, Russians and others. I want to know more about the tens of thousands of gay men who were sent to camps with pink triangles and abused ruthlessly – many of which died. I want to hear about what it was like to be a lesbian, wearing a black triangle along with the disabled, Roma, and other women deemed “asocial.” The stories of gay men and women are not widely known and the truth of their history is still revealing itself. Because gay men were still persecuted after the war, many former gay inmates were forced to remain silent.
Meanwhile, on-going marginalization of the queer community undoubtedly affects what is researched, written, and shared about the actual experiences of gays and lesbians at the time. Without knowledge of this past, it becomes all to easy to forget that LGBTQ history is well precedes the American issues faced in the last few decades. The stories of our past need to be heard and remembered, because as I learned from Manosevitz, it is only through the hearing and telling of these stories, with the hopes that they can changed the heartsand minds of today, that real healing can occur for those who have been so deeply wounded.
Today, there is much to think about as we remember the Holocaust. We remember the stories – told and untold. We remember the Christians who turned away in fear or apathy as well as the ones who acted as brave models in the risking of their own lives. We remember the ways we continue to marginalize Jews in speech, thought, ideology or religion – a tragically bold move given the history we Christians have contributed to. And most of all, as we honestly remember the past, that we may work towards healing between Jews and Christians, LGBTQ folk and straight people, women and men, the disabled and the able-bodied, and all who have endured the hate of Hitler, of the Nazis, or of anyone who believes they are innately “better.”
. . .Mary Ann Kaiser received her B.A. in Organizational Communication with a minor in Social Welfare from the University of West Florida. After college she spent one year living in Nigeria where she was shaped greatly by the cross-cultural experience and relationships formed. She has worked for a Wesley Foundation, as a hospital chaplain and completed an internship at WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) in Silver Spring, MD. She attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary where she earned her M.Div. and developed a passion for exploring the intersections of church and soceity. She is an out lesbian who now works at a UMC church in Texas as Youth Director and Justice Associate. She is challenged daily to grow in openness, resolution, and kindness.