by Rit Nosotro
The Plague and the Holocaust
What parallels can be drawn between the treatment of the Jews during the Black Plague of the 14th century and the Holocaust of the 20th century.
The world has faced numerous challenges throughout its history, and Europe, having been the center of civilization since the rise of Rome, has had a large number of tragedies occur. Two of these events were the occurrences of the Black Plague of the 1340's, and the Holocaust in the 30s and 40s of the Twentieth Century. Both of these happenings brought much grief and pain to the European population, especially the Jews of Europe. The harm done to the Jews at each of these times was a direct result of ignorance, suspicion and fear on the part of their persecutors.
The Jews are God's chosen people, and ever since Abraham's time, when Ishmael was resentful of Isaac, other people have looked down on the Jews, and been jealous of them. The incidences of the Plague and the Holocaust are two events similar to those in the Bible. Enemies who were jealous of the Jews attacked God's chosen children over and over again throughout history, and up to the present day. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the Jews were singled out in these tragedies.
Neither the disaster of the Plague, nor the severity of the Holocaust happened out of the blue. Each of these events happened at a very precise point in time, having been building up to that point for quite a while. In the case of the Plague, sanitation conditions had been falling drastically for so many years that when the Black Death struck Europe, there was no stopping it. People barely washed, and they lived in very cramped, close living conditions. Cities were over crowded, and they were over run with rats. When the first ships arrived from Asia carrying the infected rats, the disease spread at an alarming rate throughout all of Europe. In a similar way, Germany had also been prepared for the Holocaust. Following World War I, Germany was left in a very unstable position, economically. Bitter feelings were felt among a large percentage of the population, and the rapidly increasing inflation made matters worse. Like the arrival of the rats in the 1340's, when Hitler stood up with a plan, the "disease" of Anti-Semitisms traveled at an alarming rate throughout Germany and other parts of Europe, leaving the stage set perfectly for the massacre of the Jews that was to follow.
At the time of these events, there was a widespread case of ignorance, each for different reasons. In the 1300s, very little was known about health and hygiene. People were uneducated, and the truths of the Bible had been polluted for so long by this time, that many people did not understand or value the importance of human life. A lot of their knowledge was based on superstitions and false observations. With the occurrence of the Plague, no one knew what had started it. Understanding very little about the way diseases work, the people were confused as to why they were getting sick. Similarly, at the time of the German economic problems following World War I, there was still much to be learned about economics. Experts called in to help rebuild the economy after the war suggested that large amounts of money be printed and distributed. This caused rapid inflation, and no one knew what was happening, let alone what to do about it. The ignorance of the common population in both cases helped prepare the way for the seed of suspicious to be planted in the minds of the people.
Out of ignorance sprang suspicion. Not knowing what was happening, people looked around for someone to blame. Leading separate lives, the Jews had always been disliked by others, and because of their better work habits and wiser decision making, they were often found to be richer than the Gentiles. Therefore, when the troubled people searched for a source to their distress, blame fell naturally on those who were different- the Jews. With the Plague, it was determined that Jews had been poisoning the wells. When Hitler rose up and laid blame on the Jews, the worried people were quick to agree with him, turning on their friends and neighbors.
Once they had thoroughly convinced themselves of the Jews' guilt, fear began to overtake them. With the belief that Jews were out to conquer them, Gentiles became fearful of what might happen to them. The common thoughts of Europe in the 1340's was that if the Jews were willing to poison wells in Florence and Rome, then why would they hesitate to do it in other places. However, fear took on a different note in Germany, almost six hundred years later. While it had started out as a common belief in the Jews guilt, as the Nazis' power rose, people began to fear them. They no longer feared economic ruin on the part of the Jews, but they feared the dominance of the Nazis, and out of these things sprang widespread persecution of the Jews.
The fear of death at the hands of the Jews through the Plague worked the people of Europe into a frenzy. Ignoring the obvious point that Jews were dying from the Black Death just as much as Gentiles were, people hurried to act on their suspicions. Jews near Lake Geneva, Switzerland confessed to charges of poisoning under torture. The records of their confessions were passed all around Switzerland, Germany, and other parts of Europe. Towns gathered all of their Jews together and burnt those who would not convert to Christianity. If they did not burn or drown them, towns expelled the Jews from their midst, hoping that this would somehow save them from death.
In the same way, hatred on the Nazis' part, and fear of the Nazis on the peoples part, led to a massive genocide in German in the 1930's and 40's. Forgetting that Romans 10:12 says that "there is no difference between Jew and Gentile- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him," they proceeded to try and wipe out a Darwinian "lesser race". Killing almost six million Jews by the time the War was over, the Nazis were much more thorough and systematic in their methods of extermination, compared to the Plague victims, and two thirds of the European Jews where ruthlessly killed.
These actions show that at these times in history, people had moved away from God. People had come to think that they were better then the Jews, and during the massacres, the Gentiles often referred to the Jews as "Jesus killers." Forgetting that Jesus himself was a Jew, they pretended that it was the Jews alone who nailed Christ to the cross, rather then the sins of everyone in the world. God still has a special place in his heart for his chosen people, as can be seen in Romans 11:28b & 29 "but as far as election is concerned [the Jews] are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."
Although there were other aspects to the Jewish massacres of the 14th and 20th centuries, it is fairly clear that ignorance, suspicion and fear played major roles in these events. Although the death of the Jews in connection with the Plague was a centralized event and the Holocaust was a worldwide disaster, it is clear that these two tragedies are comparable in characteristics which led up to similar attempts at the annihilation of the Jews.
Halsall, Paul. "The Black Death and the Jews 1348-1349 CE." July 1998. Jewish
History Sourcebook. 20 Oct. 2004 Berenbaum, Michael. "The Holocaust." World Book Encyclopedia. CD_ROM. Mac
OS X ed. 2001.
Drotman, D. Peter. "The Plague." World Book Encyclopedia. CD_ROM. Mac OS X
Wiley, Ron. Personal interview. 3 November
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Berenbaum, Michael. "The Holocaust." World Book Encyclopedia. CD_ROM. Mac OS X ed. 2001.
Drotman, D. Peter. "The Plague." World Book Encyclopedia. CD_ROM. Mac OS X ed. 2001.
Wiley, Ron. Personal interview. 3 November