Excerpt from Hitler’s Priest

Seated in his office Rabbi Mandelsohn found it increasingly difficult to control his emotions. Shabbat had always been a joyous part of the week, but this evening he would face his congregation with a heavy heart. Steeped in the Jewish traditions of tolerance and respect for others, he had always been able to see past imperfections to the inner goodness of everyone. But now in Vienna he found it almost impossible to see any goodness in the Germans. For the first time in his life the rifle seemed more appealing than the olive branch, but he was reluctant to meet violence with violence. What could he do to lessen the pain and anxiety of his people?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I come to you this night with the heaviest of hearts because now that we have been assumed back into Germany our lives will never be the same. For the longest time we hoped with all our being that the German government would not continue to erode our rights as citizens and free people, but that hope is now but a flickering flame. Already our lives have been so disrupted that we find the most common and ordinary things that we once took for granted are now forbidden. These limitations are not merely the criminal acts of isolated fanatics, they are the policies of what we once believed was a civilized government. What have we done to deserve such despicable treatment? Why are our innocent children punished because of their birth into our families? How does a man deprive another of visiting a cafe or a park without cause? Why have we been removed from occupations where we have served others for most of our adult lives? Is the Jew less a physician today than before the racial laws? Is the merchant who sold reputable goods to others suddenly a thief? We have lost the right of due process, and now we are unable to flee into safe environments.

I fear that these laws only mask the deeper intent of the government: if they cannot force us to leave, they will force us to cease to exist. We need each other more today than ever before, and our heritage of caring for each other is the hope that will enable us to survive these dark days. I cannot stand here tonight and act as if there is nothing to worry about, but neither can I abandon you anymore than I can abandon myself. I believe in you and your goodness. I believe there is a loving God, and I pray that sanity will be restored before the unimaginable happens. I do not have a  magic wand, and I do not presume to be Moses who can lead you to the promised land, but I am your rabbi, and I pledge my undying devotion to serve you no matter what tomorrow brings.”

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