Their ancestors were Nazis. They now organize marches supporting Israel, fighting antisemitism.

“Uprising against Antisemitism,” the banner reads at a March of Life event in Germany. Credit: courtesy.

by Etgar Lefkovits

(JNS) — A Germany-based evangelical organization that commemorates the memory of the Holocaust by organizing marches around the world against antisemitism and in support of Israel is bringing 2,000 Christian supporters, including the descendants of Nazis, to Jerusalem this spring to mark the Jewish state’s 75th Independence Day.

The gathering comes at a time of heightened traditional antisemitism as well as a new contemporary antisemitism that masks itself behind anti-Israel rhetoric.

“As descendants of Nazi perpetrators it is not enough to say ‘Never again,’ Pastor Jobst Bittner, founder of the March of Life movement, told JNS in an interview from Germany. “We have to be responsible to do something and are calling on people to speak out against antisemitism and to stand with Israel.”

Bittner, whose father was an officer in the Wehrmacht’s Afrika Corps during the Second World War, has been honored by Israel for his staunch support for the Jewish state. He calls its founding one of the greatest miracles of our time.

“When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we pray that all nations take a stand for Israel,” he said.

Since it was founded in 2007, the organization has spread to more than 20 nations and 500 cities and has held marches in Germany, Austria, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United States and Israel.

The May 16 event in Jerusalem will be attended by Israeli parliamentarians from the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus. It will be followed by marches the next day in eight cities around the world.

“To see how many Christians stand with Israel is an amazing fact that the people of Israel are not aware of,” said MK Moshe Tur-Paz of Yesh Atid, a member of the cross-party caucus who addressed the March of Life organization at a gathering of supporters in Germany over the weekend. “We are not alone in our fight against antisemitism, against BDS and in remembrance of the Holocaust.”

Listing some of the cities where marches have been held, he added: “This is not a Jewish world issue, but a whole world issue.”

Bittner, the pastor of the TOS Church in Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg state, launched the March of Life movement under its auspices in 2007. The southwestern German university town served as the training ground for the Einsatzgruppen, the SS death squads that murdered 700,000 Jews, primarily by shooting, during the Holocaust, he said.

“For 50 years nobody had talked about it,” Bittner said.

Today their voices are loud and clear.

“It was so encouraging to be in Germany together with Christian leaders from around the world who commemorate the memory of the Holocaust by standing with Israel through their public marches,” said Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. “They are taking a critical stand in the war against antisemitism as we work together to advance faith-based diplomacy in support of Israel.”