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Oldest Holocaust survivor’s story nominated for Oscar

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Photo dated July 2010 made available by the makers of the Oscar nominated documentary The Lady in Number 6, in which she tells her story, of Alice Herz-Sommer, believed to be the oldest-known survivor of the Holocaust, who died in London on Sunday morning at the age of 110. Herz-Sommers devotion to the piano and to her son sustained her through two years in a Nazi prison camp. (AP)

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<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/8oxO3M6rAPw?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}The world’s oldest Holocaust survivor died last week.

Alice Herz-Sommer was 110 years old.  She was an amazing lady—she lived entirely alone in a tiny London flat and played the piano for hours every day, practicing her beloved Bach and Beethoven.  Seven decades ago she was a successful concert pianist in central Europe when she received her deportation summons from the Nazis.  Her mother and husband had already been taken to Auschwitz by the time she and her five-year-old son were sent to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.

Her mother and husband were gassed by the Nazis; she and her son were liberated by the Soviet Army in May 1945.  Her son, who became a concert cellist, died in 2001.  A film about her life has been nominated for best short documentary at next month’s Academy Awards.  

It is often claimed that “religion poisons everything,” to quote Christopher Hitchens.  Richard Dawkins calls religion “the root of all evil.”  When atrocities such as 9/11 are committed in the name of religion, “angry atheists” are quick to point to them as proof that religion is dangerous to humanity.

However, contrary to common assumption, the Holocaust was not caused by religion.  Hitler hated the Jews because he was convinced that they were biologically and racially distinct and threatened the Aryan race he sought to advance.  In the first half of the 20th century, 20 million people were killed in the U.S.S.R., 65 million in China, two million in North Korea, and two million in Cambodia.  Each was a victim of a government that was officially atheistic.  Are we to blame all atheists for such atrocities?

Note that Christians are persecuted far more than they persecute.  More Christians have died for their faith than followers of all other religions, combined.  While Christians make up a third of the world’s population, they suffer 80 percent of its religious discrimination.  More believers died for their faith in the 20th century than in the previous 19, combined.

In Richard Dawkins’ non-religious universe there would be no Martin Luther King, Jr., no Gandhi or Mother Teresa, no Mozart, Bach, Rubens, or Michelangelo, no Red Cross or Salvation Army or St. Francis.  And the remarkable achievements of the Jewish people, so many of them motivated by their faith, would be lost.

I have made more than 20 trips to Israel.  I love its biblical significance, its beauty, and its people.  Alice Herz-Sommer captured their spirit when she claimed, despite all she suffered, that “life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful.  Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.”

The next time a skeptic makes you account for the evil in the world, make him account for the good.