Learning from History: A Black Christian's Perspective on the Holocaust

Learning from History: A Black Christian's Perspective on the Holocaust

Learning from History: A Black Christian's Perspective on the Holocaust

Learning from History: A Black Christian's Perspective on the Holocaust

Synopsis

Because the Holocaust, the author contends, was at its core an extreme expression of a devastating racism, it has special significance for African Americans. Locke, a university professor, clergyman, and African American, reflects on the common experiences of African American and Jewish people as minorities and on the great tragedy that each community has experienced in its history--slavery and the Holocaust. Without attempting to equate the experiences of African Americans to the experiences of European Jews during the Holocaust, the author does show how aspects of the Holocaust, its impact on the Jewish community worldwide, and the long-lasting consequences relate to slavery, the civil rights movement, and the current status of African Americans.

Excerpt

For almost thirty years now, I have been something of an oddity at annual meetings held across the United States at which scholars, educators, clerics, and citizens gather to discuss what, for many, is the worst human tragedy that has befallen any group of people in history. Not surprisingly, after close to three decades, these meetings bring together many old friends and long-time acquaintances but, in each city where we meet, there are newcomers to our sessions who greet my presence with surprise and, occasionally, with glances of confusion, as though I had wandered into the wrong assembly. The meetings are held to examine the history and consequences of the destruction of European Jewry by the Nazis while World War II was in progress and, with only two exceptions that I can recall during the past two decades, I have been the only Black person in attendance.

How often the bewildered newcomers have turned to other conference participants to inquire who "the Black fellow with the beard" might be, I do not know. Not infrequently, the more inquisitive approach me directly to ask about the origins of my interest in the Holocaust. In candor, such a question can be double-edged. When asked out of benign curiosity, it displays simple amazement that a Black American, whose people have their own story of outrage to tell, should spend his time and effort becoming conversant with the horror that enveloped another people on another continent, over a half-century ago. Sometimes, the question betrays a conviction that the Holocaust is a Jewish matter, best left to Jewish people to examine and interpret.

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