'That Jew Died For You' - but Not for This Awful Misuse of the Holocaust

The above video, 'That Jew Died for You', has been circulating on the Internet for the past few days; it now has over one million views on YouTube. It's fair to say, however, that it has been shared and talked about so much for all the wrong reasons.
This latest video from the organisation Jews for Jesus has been publicised just before Yom HaShoah, the Jewish remembrance day for those who died in the Holocaust. Set in 1943, it depicts a group of Jews being led to the gates of Auschwitz, registering and being selected for the work camp or the gas chambers. The whole video is shot in black and white, except for a figure towards the end - all in colour, we see the back of Jesus, carrying his large wooden cross. He is sneeringly directed off to the left - to the 'showers' - as he is told he is 'just another Jew'.

The rags the Jews are wearing look suspiciously new. The 'Arbeit Macht Frei' gate of Auschwitz has been badly super-imposed onto a background of some of the barracks in Auschwitz I, and not in the actual location that it stands. Jews present their passports to be stamped at a table outside the gates, which never would have happened. The German officers who confer with each other as to who should be sent in which direction (which was also generally the decision of one officer) are incredibly over-dramatised. But aside from all the obvious flaws in the production of this short video, it's the content itself which has sparked so many people to criticise it, and I am certainly no exception.

Who in their right mind sat in the group meeting to plan this video and decided the Holocaust would be the best setting for this? Were they completely blind to the offence and outrage it would cause? This video totally undermines the Holocaust, suggesting that it is the only base for modern Judaism and that such a huge, atrocious event can be manipulated for the use of religious propaganda. Suddenly, all the millions who were murdered and gassed pale into insignificance as if the 'death' of Jesus in such places would be the only aspect of importance.

Theological debates during and after the Holocaust have often asked the question, 'Where was God during the Holocaust?' Was it some sort of punishment for the Jewish people? What about all those thousands who weren't Jewish but still lost their lives - where was God to protect them? These are all fair questions that can only really be answered by the individual and their beliefs. Suggesting that the Holocaust was some sort of second punishment for Jesus himself, however, is not a satisfactory explanation, because once again, it suggests that all the victims are irrelevant when compared to this huge sacrifice that Jesus made.

The director of Jews for Jesus, Julia Pascoe, was on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday morning, trying (and failing, miserably) to defend the video. She was challenged by female Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who branded the video "disgusting" and launched an attack on the organisation as a whole, questioning how it can still be Jewish when the emphasis is on Jesus (a sentiment that I strongly agree with, but I am not religious and that is a whole different argument). As some form of explanation, Pascoe begins to delve into her own history with Judaism and Jesus, and also the work that Jesus did for all of us by sacrificing himself. In short, there is no concrete reason given as to why Jews for Jesus have promoted such a controversial and rather tasteless video.

I can only assume that those who made the video did not lose members of their own families during the Holocaust, or had any survivors as relatives or family friends. If they actually do, by some chance, what a cheap insult to all of them. I have tried to imagine the faces of Holocaust survivors that I know when watching this video, whether they are still religious Jews or not. Every single one of them would be sickened, of that I have no doubt. If this organisation knows what is best, they will remove this video and issue a strong apology for the offence they have caused. Somehow, I strongly doubt that anyone will take a fresh interest in joining such a group that is now associated with such an awful piece of religious propaganda. Let's be thankful that the majority of responses to this video have been of anger and outrage - at least most of us can still appreciate the ways in which the Holocaust should be remembered and represented. This video is not one of them.

You can listen to the interview between Julia Pascoe and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner here (until Friday 2nd May; scroll to 1 hour 27 minutes).