Irmhild Barend—Why I, a German, Love the Jewish People

Love often begins with a discovery. We discover someone to whom we feel deeply drawn and who then inspires our devotion. My love for my Jewish brothers and sisters started with a discovery. Discovery and an empty chair.

I carefully balanced the tray of food in my hand, trying desperately to avoid spilling its contents on the heads of the people already seated and eating lunch. The conference dining room was filled with the sound of hundreds of participants from around the world chatting in various languages, and I was one of several people searching for a vacant seat. I was relieved to finally spot one, and sank gratefully into it. As I set my tray down, a woman’s voice greeted me warmly in German, “Now you should take your time to eat.”

I turned to my new neighbor, who watched me with two kind brown eyes. We started talking and I felt as though she had known me from childhood. Hansi exuded a motherly love that gave me a sense of safety, and I confided in her readily.

She told me that she was writing books, and that one of them had been published in German. However, she did not disclose the subject of the book. She only said, “Kindele, you can order in any bookstore, my dear.”

When I returned home to Germany, I did read her book, which turned out to be her personal story of how she survived the Holocaust. I wept as I read how the Nazis had thrown her whole family in gas chambers. She was the only one to survive.

As I read further, I recalled the gracious demeanor of the woman I had met in the dining room. How was it that Hansi’s experiences had not made her bitter and vengeful toward her family’s murderers, or even to someone like me, a German?

Hansi’s book described the many people who had risked their lives in order to rescue her. The man who coordinated hiding places for her was a believer in Yeshua, and because of his love for God’s chosen people, he was prepared to bear any consequences for his actions. In the end, his love for the Jews cost him his life. When the Nazis discovered his role in hiding Jews, they shot him.

My friend saw the love of Yeshua in the life of this man. Because of his sacrifice, she began to read the Bible and learned that Yeshua was the promised Messiah, and that he had given his life for her, too.

Through the discovery of Yeshua’s amazing love for her, Hansi was able to release her bitterness toward Germans. That same love gave her the strength to forgive the Nazis for what they had done to her and her family.

Hansi’s story struck me, and I could not get it out of my mind. I already believed that Yeshua was the Son of God, and that he was Jewish. Now I suddenly realized that through Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, I had a place in the Jewish family. I was, in fact, an adopted family member.

Let me explain. The book of Romans describes the Jewish people as the root and branches of an olive tree. Addressing gentile believers in Yeshua, Paul writes:

…you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Romans 11:17,18).

God grafts the goyim who believe in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, into the olive tree, and these grafted branches grow along with the natural branches of the tree. The roots and the nourishing sap of the olive tree support the grafted branches and they identify with the tree.

So the connection I felt to Hansi was a completely natural one. Yet I, too, felt a need for forgiveness. I was haunted by my heritage as a German. A maniac from my country had exterminated millions of people whom God calls the apple of his eye. Hitler had threatened to destroy the root of the tree. How could I apologize for my German history? Didn’t I have to feel guilty?

I was driven back to the pages of the Bible. I realized that only Yeshua could grant the forgiveness I needed. In the life of my wonderful new friend, he had set free the floods of love, and he had set them free in me as well. Because of Yeshua’s forgiveness of all our sins, I, a German, and Hansi, a Jew, were now bonded together in his love. We belonged together. She does not cease being Jewish, nor do I cease to be German, but we share a bond that, in a sense, makes us sisters.

I discovered it is only right that I love all of my Jewish siblings. As the man who rescued Hansi realized, God loves his chosen people. So should I. The New Testament clearly states that God will fulfill all of his promises to the Jews. As a gentile, I thank God for the Jews, through whom Yeshua the Messiah was born, and through whom I have inherited a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

As a German believer in Yeshua, I love the Jewish people for giving me a place in the olive tree, and for giving me an empty chair next to them.