John Steward of Jesus
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The sacred number six million

(posted at theekklesiachurch)
June 7, 2009

Recent postings have confirmed my impression that "six million" is a treacherous phrase.

The sequence began when I used the heading "The sacred number six million" for the following  post:

From Obama's speech at Cairo:
         "Six million Jews were killed--more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today.  Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant and it is hateful."

Within an hour this response appeared:

Why don't you
go and talk
to Jews who do genealogy
who can show you
all their missing relatives
in their family tree
and then do the arithmetic

and THEN

you can come back

with your idiotic, holocaust-denying shit, ok?

A few hours later, in response to someone else's gentle inquiry, the writer went on to say:
Was I mistaken in assuming that the title "the sacred number" six million was a sarcastic attempt to engage in holocaust revisionism?....I believe it is my Christian duty to rebuke brothers who engage in idiocy, and by my calculations, questioning the holocaust or its extent constitutes precisely that --- idiocy, and behind it are usually crypto-fascists and anti-semites. I know people who have tremendous portions of their family tree blasted to hell because of that event, and I don't intend to stand around without using some good Anglo-Saxon words for anyone who tries to deny it.

Subsequent postings have given me the impression that the writer was not speaking from the heart as much as he was repeating standard reactions to any questions regarding the accuracy of the number six million--equating such questions with the denial of well documented suffering, and labeling them as "idiotic, holocaust-denying shit", "holocaust revisionism", "idiocy", "questioning the holocaust", "crypto-fascist", "anti-semitic".

I appreciated and express my thanks for the many thoughtful comments which were posted as the conversation continued.  Those comments and the hundreds of pages of argumentation I have read on the subject leave me with the opinion that the confirmed reports and calculations based on them leave plenty of room for a "reasonable doubt" regarding the number six million.  I have no interest in doing research to establish a more reliable number.  If a thousand people were exterminated, reprehensible evil is established.  My concern is that the expression of defensible mental doubt is so vilified, and labeled as "hateful" even by the president of the United States, known to be an intelligent, informed, and thoughtful man, in a major address on matters related to Mideast politics.  There are ongoing attempts to make such "hateful" speech a crime in the United States, as it now is in many countries.

I can best make sense of the intensity of the exchanges when I regard "six million" as an aspect of religious dogma regarding salvation and the hope of better life for people.  Questioning the accepted (orthodox) dogma is heresy.  The record gives us many sad examples of what people will do and tolerate to eliminate heretics.

The paradigm conflict is perhaps centered on the soteriological sacrifice  which opens the door to new hope  for  better life on earth.

In one model, a Lamb willingly offers himself for crucifixion, prays that his killers may be forgiven, instructs his followers to pray, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us",  tells them to forgive seventy times seven times, to love their enemies, to leave vengeance to the Lord, and to overcome evil with good.

In another model, six million (a number with mystical and theological significance) innocents are sacrificed in a holocaust (burnt offering) because they naively offered little resistance.  Through their sacrifice, which others must "never forget", so that such evil will "never again" occur, the lesson is learned that such evil must be resisted, that those who contributed to it must be pursued to the ends of the earth, even in old age, apprehended and punished.  Those who engage in the "hateful" action of questioning the dogma of the six million must also be pursued, apprehended, punished, and, if necessary, eliminated.   People everywhere must  be reminded  through all the media available of the horrible facts and significance of  "the holocaust".

The model of forgiveness and love is not compatible with the model of remembrance and vengeance.  None of us can have our thoughts and actions governed by both models at the same time.  As always, we have choices to make.  May the way of peace prevail.