Gathering in Auschwitz 2007

15 – 17 June 2007

Representatives from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland and Belarus met from 15th. – 17 th. June in Oswiecim. Abraham Ministries, under the leadership of Werner and Regula Woiwode, had invited them. GOD had made it clear to them, after a previous short visit with their team to Auschwitz in 2006, that that visit was in preparation for a future much bigger event, which was to incorporate the “collective guilt” of the German-speaking countries concerning the Holocaust. Over the past few years a number of Groups had already come from these countries to Auschwitz to pray and also to ask for forgiveness. But this time it was to bring representatives from these three German-speaking countries together with brethren from Poland but, above all, Messianic Jews. When we talk about “collective guilt” we mean the following:

• that Hitler, who was born and grew up in Austria, and found a lot of his support there.
• that Germany was used as a willing instrument for his totalitarian madness.
• that Switzerland closed their borders but opened their bank vaults for the systematic robbery of Jewish property and wealth by the Nazis.

About 80 people gathered together in the Pentecostal Church pastored by Josef and Regina Hydzig, which is situated in the middle of Oswiecim. Regina, herself, is a Jew. The Gathering, itself, began at 14:00 on Friday. As part of the preparation we had tried to obtain a meeting with the Mayor of Oswiecim. As we hadn’t received an answer from his office, we assumed that it would not be possible to meet him. On Friday morning, Regina went personally to the mayor’s office and was able to make an appointment. So at 15:00 that afternoon a delegation of two representatives of each of our countries met with the mayor. The first surprise was that he could speak perfect German. He explained that the name of the concentration camp was Auschwitz, but the town, itself, is called Oswiecim. Before the Second World War it was called Oswiecim-Jerusalem and had had a Jewish population of 58%! He also told us how he, as an independent politician, totally unknown and without any advertising managed to defeat the Communist Party. And after a period of 4 years in office, despite slanderous accusationns, he was also voted-in again for a second period. We told him that he was quite obviously GOD’S “choice” for this particular time and place. Then we explained the reason for our Gathering and why we wanted to met with him. Before the meeting we had already had Hosea 10:12 impressed on our hearts: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till HE comes and rains righteousness on you.” (NKJV).
In order to symbolize this verse we handed a sapling over to the mayor. He, in turn, suggested that we sang “Stern auf den ich schaue” together. We prayed for and blessed him and he did the same for us. We experienced an extremely intensive and I believe GOD-planned time of fellowship together. An interesting detail that emerged is that Oswiecim is situated in a part of Littlepoland known as Woiwode county. The previous Mayors were the Woiwodes. It was a title. And the people who GOD chose to bring this Gathering about are called Werner and Regula Woiwode. Isn’t that amazing?
We had also received Psalm 24 as the motivating scripture for this weekend. Initially this concerns the certainty and clarification of who the LORD of the world is and that I belong to HIM. It appeared to us to be important and indispensable that we had to be totally, consciously focused on our GOD. We came from different countries, very different churches and fellowships, with different experiences and above all everyone had come with their own ideas of how the Gathering should organised. It was necessary to take time to look to GOD, to be quiet before HIM and to let go of our preconceived ideas, in order to come to a unified starting point. The next verse in Psalm 24 speaks of pure hearts and hands. This referred to the inter-action and relationships between the individuals representing the different countries. We took time to allow the HOLY SPIRIT to minister to us. HE showed us things, convinced and corrected us. We were able to repent of our false attitudes by confessing them and asking for forgiveness. It was a time of cleansing. With the removal of these burdens we were in a position to look forward to the next day, Saturday.

We drove to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. After we had each individually spent some time alone, we gathered together on the “Field of Ashes”. Previously it had been a lake. The Nazis had filled it in with the ashes of Jews killed in the gas chambers and burned in the ovens. Not a drop of water, only the ashes of hundreds of thousands of the dead.
We laid the flags of our respective countries on the ground and the covered them with a black cloth. This was meant to represent and symbolize the “coat of silence” which still exists in our countries in respect of the Holocaust. We asked our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters to stand in the middle and we formed a circle round about them. Then we turned our backs to them and walked away from them. In doing so we closed our eyes, pressed our lips together and covered up our ears. This action was to symbolize our previous inaction when the Jews were subjected to isolation, slander, dispossession of property, persecution, cruel torture and were mercilessly and brutally murdered. Either we willingly took part in these actions, with a few exceptions, or we saw, heard and said nothing against all these monstrocities. What seems to be beyond belief is that history is about to repeat itself and that enmity against the Jews and Israel is as high or higher now, in our countries (and Europe), than in the 1930s.
We remained in these positions for a few minutes. None of those present was able to ward off the sudden attack of pain. We were all absolutely shattered. Our Jewish brethren felt (once more) what it feels like to be left alone; lost and alone. Those of us in the outer ring felt, on the one hand, some of their pain and, on the other hand, a deep sense of shame concerning our attitude. Once more something broke in us. Also a crying out to GOD “Have mercy on us, forgive us and help us never again to remain silent, to turn and look away because we don’t want to hear. “ There followed a time of repentance, of collective crying, of asking for forgiveness and of hugging and consoling one another. Before we celebrated Communion, we had an important time of prayer for our families back home in our three countries. Here in Auschwitz-Birkenau families were separated: husbands from wives; parents from children. They were torn apart from one another. We believe that through this action a curse has come upon the families in our countries. The perpetrators have become the victims. When we examine the development of the family since the Second World War we can come to no other conclusion. We broke this curse over the families and prayed for healing and restoration through the power of the blood of JESUS. Finally, the Messianic Jews removed the black cloth covering our three countries’ flags.
The earth in Auschwitz-Birkenau has been dead for decades, scorched earth where nothing grew, where no life could be seen or heard. Since Christians from all over the world (but primarily from the three German-speaking countries) have been praying there, and reconciliation has taken place, life has also returned. Trees, flowers and grass are growing, and one can hear birds singing and see many different kinds of animals. New life is growing up out of the ruins. Beauty instead of ashes!
During the afternoon GOD made it clear that HE was not only at work in the concentration camp, Auschwitz, but also HIS profound love encompassed the town of Oswiecim and its inhabitants. We divided ourselves up into a number of small groups and walked through, prayed for and blessed the town. Two groups even went into the Synagogue to intercede and praise GOD. In the evening we all met again in the Pentecostal Church, where we, once again, experienced a very special encounter. Following JESUS’S example in John’s gospel
(chapter 13) where HE washed the feet of HIS disciples, we wanted to wash the feet of our Jewish brethren. This resulted in a very emotional experience. For most of them it was the first time in their lives that they had had their feet washed. We wanted, thereby, to express the fact that: “We love and honour you. You are important and valuable to us. We are prepared to help and serve you., where we can.” Afterwards we did the same with our Polish brethren. Finally, we relinquished control over the washing bowl so that whoever felt so led could wash the feet of others. This took place in an atmosphere of worship and love. We are certain that GOD was glorified in and through this time.
It is the time of “breakthough”. The time when old, iron bolts and doors will open so that the LORD, the King of Kings, can enter in! Where new life can rise out of the ruins of suffering, contempt and pain. “You will arise and have mercy on Zion; For the time to favour her, Yes, the set time has come (Ps.102:13). As GOD spoke to Israel that HE would gather them out of the nations, and that HE would give them HIS Spirit, in the set time, so HE is saying today to the worldwide church: “I am not doing this for your sake, but for the sake of MY HOLY NAME”. GOD was concerned in the past and HE is still concerned today about HIS HOLY NAME. Therefore, HE still intervenes in everyday life: in lives of individuals, in lives of married couples, families, regions and even whole countries.

Werner Woiwode

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