‘Coincidentally,’ I became aware of the plight of the Romeike
family on Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2008, the Romeike family fled to the United
States because their desire to homeschool their children ran counter to the law
in their native Germany. Threatened with escalating fines and the probable
removal of their children from their home, they requested asylum in the United
States, which was granted in 2010.
With everything pertaining to immigration running so
smoothly in this country and obviously much free time on their hands (sarcasm
intended), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided to challenge
the decision to grant them asylum, in a case that will be heard later this
month. As a human being, as a mother and as a homeschooler my heart goes out to
the family. But it is as a Jew that I signed a petition
urging our government to drop its attack.
I rarely sign general petitions. I simply don’t see it as
the most effective means of protest and I am wary of putting my name to
something without taking sufficient time to research the issue. You could say
it isn’t “my thing.” None of that mattered in this case.
Centuries of anti-Semitism disseminated and promoted by the
Catholic Church and not condemned by the followers of the Protestant
Reformation, laid a foundation for Nazi Germany’s evil. In the years since
World War II, leaders and lay people in both churches have accepted
accountability for anti-Semitic teachings and made corresponding changes in
their churches. However, that isn’t the whole picture. Nazism was a Socialist
state creation, with strong anti-religious overtones. Hitler, like Stalin,
understood that obedience to God interfered with obedience to a human dictator.
Religion was a tool to be manipulated rather than a creed to be followed. The
state’s authority must be paramount.
For this reason, responsibility for the Holocaust cannot be
laid solely at the feet of traditional anti-Semitism or the Church. The complete
dominance and power of the state was also a key factor. The German educational
system played a large part in citizens’ compliance. Germany’s laws regarding
compulsory schooling date back to the 1870’s. The laws were strengthened and
penalties for non-compliance were added under Hitler. The goal of government
schooling was to provide citizens who would be good workers and obedient to
authority. Individual thinking and strong family ties pose a threat to
totalitarian regimes. Obeying orders, no matter what they were, was an intended
result of Germanic training.
In one of history’s
paradoxes, most of those who aided or sheltered Jews did so not in spite of,
but because of, their Christian beliefs. Some held a general belief that murder
of any human being is wrong. Others, like
devout Protestant nonagenarian Casper ten Boom who
died in Gestapo prison because he asserted that his home would always be open
to those who are, “the apple of God’s eye,” felt that their Christian faith compelled
them to assist Jews. Their faithfulness to God and their belief that they were
accountable to Him was what gave them the strength to resist the regime despite
the potential, and too often realized, dire consequences.
The Romeike family was granted asylum because they wanted to
educate their children outside of government control. An American administration that has repeatedly
proven that it values state dominance over individual faith-driven conscience
is threatening to deport them. Particularly this week, when awareness of the
Holocaust is promoted, signing
the petition was something I had to do.