He was 16, but you might not have guessed it. As a toddler, the strapping blonde-haired lad suffered an illness that left him brain-damaged and childlike.
Still, he was happy and healthy as the proverbial horse. That’s why it was so strange that, when he went to the hospital for a simple cold, he grew worse by the day. Then, as soon as he had fell ill, he died.
That boy was my grandmother’s youngest brother, Emil. He was one of thousands of “undesirables” who silently disappeared under Hitler’s reign during World War II, systematically and ruthlessly eliminated by the Nazis.
Emil had been killed through a series of injections.
Although we are not Jewish, my own family suffered as Christians in Germany during that time. Stories my parents have told me were on my mind when I recently visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C for Care Net’s annual conference.
It’s difficult to describe what you feel in this place.
I’m standing in front of a display featuring the small metal frame of a hospital bed. I read about how countless disabled children –children like my great-uncle Emil—disappeared during the war years in Europe.
Tears sting my eyes. I’ve just visited with Derrick Tennant and his sister Julie of The Love Chromosome. Julie has Down syndrome and Derrick is partially paralyzed.
Derrick and Julie would have disappeared.
But it’s not just the past that’s the problem: One of our keynote speakers, Gabe Lyons (whose firstborn son has Down syndrome) has informed us that preborn children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted at an exceptionally high rate.
In Iceland, there’s a movement to completely eliminate Down syndrome by means of the same grisly method.
The museum is meant to be a place to remember, an opportunity to learn from history. The hope is that humankind will not continue to repeat the same mistakes.
I stare at the empty hospital bed through a sheen of tears and think, We haven’t learned from history. We haven’t learned, because the unredeemed human heart is depraved. Only the gospel changes us.
Tragically, in of our fallen condition, we are repeating the same kind of wickedness, daily. Millions of invisible, hidden, oppressed people across the globe are still being killed routinely in the very place that should be the ultimate sanctuary.
Fancy euphemisms surrounding the topic of abortion abound, just as the fancy euphemisms in Hitler’s day helped people rationalize the grossest kinds of evil. Pretty words may make the killing of innocent human beings more palatable, but no less wrong.
Towards the end of our museum visit, we see displays of other genocides in places like Cambodia and Rwanda. I search the halls and walls for the one people group that I hope beyond hope will be memorialized here… but there is no mention of them at all.
In the last area, there’s a wall full of pegs holding hand-written responses to the museum experience. I sit down at a small table, pick up a blank card, and write,
Where is the memorial and the honor for the millions of unborn aborted children? I have no desire to condemn their mothers, for they are another kind of victim… but shouldn’t these children be remembered? If we refuse to acknowledge their dignity and worth, how are we any different than the Nazis?
I’m sure I’m not the first pro-life visitor to make a remark like this, and I have no idea how quickly my card might be covered by the next response. But I said what I needed to say, and who knows? Even if one person reads my words and begins to think twice about the sanctity of human life, it matters.
We never know what a little seed of truth may grow into. In our pro-death culture, which has conveniently ignored the lessons the Holocaust provides, words of life are as critical as ever.
Let’s spread seeds of truth about the sacredness of human life everywhere we go.