The Holocaust

Throughout the course of the Jewish exile, many solutions had been offered for the Jewish Question. Many practiced expulsion from their countries; others insisted that conversion to the Christian faith was the solution; and Hitler contrived the Final Solution, a nightmarish plan designed to exterminate every Jew on earth.

The resulting Holocaust has not been equaled in the course of human history. Consequently, it stands to reason that the Scriptures are not silent on this horrible event, especially when we take into consideration that the Bible was primarily written for and about the Jews, the targeted victims of the Holocaust.

"For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it" (Jer. 30:3).

What was to be the catalyst that would cause the Jews to return to the Land? The idea of uprooting one's family from home and business was unappealing to the Jews of Europe, particularly in Germany where assimilation was the dominant theme of Jewish life. The Jews were German first, Jewish second. They called themselves "Germans of the Mosaic persuasion." This mindset, this optimistic assessment of life in Germany for the Jews of the early 1930's, would soon be shattered and replaced by one of unparalleled terror.

Leslie Frankel was 10 years old when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. He later recalled, "I had been skating that day... and when I got home we heard that Hitler had become Chancellor. EVERYBODY SHOOK. As kids of 10, WE SHOOK."1

"For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace" (Jer. 30:5). The brutality against the Jews escalated rapidly from 1933 onwards.

On September 15, 1935, the Nurnberg Laws were enacted. These laws formally excommunicated Jews from German society and declared the Jews unclean and unfit for any contact with Aryans. The writing was on the wall; within one year of the adoption of these laws, over 75,000 Jews had emigrated from Germany and more than 8,000 had committed suicide.

The intense anti-Semitic feelings of the German Reich were manifested on November 9, 1938. This was an unforgettable night of terror for all the Jews of Hitler's Nazi Germany. That night nearly every window in every synagogue and Jewish-owned business was shattered, along with the nerves of nearly every Jew. That night became known as "Kristallnacht," the night of broken glass. Ninety-one Jews were murdered that night, and more than 30,000 arrested and sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht was but the beginning of sorrows.

Many Jews of Germany, maybe for the first time, realized that their situation was hopeless. Though thousands had emigrated, more than 600,000 had remained waiting for Nazi anti-Semitism to moderate. Surely, they thought, this reign of terror by this madman Hitler couldn't last. Such thinking proved to be an illusion.

After Kristallnacht and prior to the outbreak of World War II, less than 10 months later, virtually every Jew in Germany tried to get out. It was too late. As the Nazis closed in on the Jews, all nations on earth closed their borders to the fleeing Jewish refugees.

Of all the nations that attended the Evian Conference of 1939, a conference called to deal with the terrible plight of the Jews, not one nation was willing to help substantially in regard to it. It is of little wonder that Hitler was quoted as saying afterward: "The democracies of the earth ooze sympathy for the poor, tormented Jew, but they themselves will not lift one finger to help them."

How true were the words of Jeremiah: "There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines. All thy lovers [friends] have forgotten thee; they seek thee not..." (Jer. 30:13-14).

British Reaction

With the doors of virtually every nation closed, the Jews of Europe tried to get into Israel, the land promised in 1917 for a homeland for the Jews. Remember, the British had also promised to use their best endeavors to facilitate the creation of the Jewish homeland, but by now, in 1939, Britain's political ambitions had changed and the desperate cries of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fell on deaf ears.

In fact, not only did the British react indifferently to the Jewish plight, but they became an adversary to the Jews of Europe. It was at the zenith of this crisis, that the British virtually drove the nails into the coffins of the European Jews by implementing The White Paper. Essentially, this was an immigration quota bill, drafted to appease the Arabs in Palestine, that limited Jewish immigration to 1500 a month over a 5 year period, after which continued immigration would only be allowed with mutual consent of the Arabs and British Government.

David Ben-Gurion wrote a response to The White Paper in 1939: "It is in the darkest hour of Jewish history that the British government proposes to deprive the Jews of their last hope, and to close the road back to their homeland. It is a cruel blow; doubly cruel because it comes from the government of a great nation that has extended a helping hand to the Jews and whose position in the world rests upon foundations of moral authority and good faith. This blow will not subdue the Jewish people. The historic bond between the people and the land of Israel will not be broken. The Jews will never accept the closing against them of the gates of Palestine..." As one survivor of the Holocaust put it: "We were caught in a trap, right up to our necks."2

During the war, with every new Nazi conquest, one of the first tasks was to seek out and organize the annihilation of the Jews. They were herded into vast death camps to be shot, burned, or gassed. Jews in Russian towns and villages were taken into the fields, stripped naked, forced to dig their own graves, and machine-gunned down by the thousands.

An eyewitness to the first deportees of Hungary recalled that, "After the train had crossed the Hungarian frontier on to Polish territory, the Gestapo took control. It stopped near Kolo-maye. The Jews had to get out and climb into the lorries (these were sealed transports). The lorries drove toward a forest. The Jews were made to get out. They were made to dig huge graves. And when they had finished their work, the Gestapo began theirs. Without passion, without haste, they slaughtered their prisoners."3 Jews were flogged, hanged, poisoned, clubbed to death, strangled, electrocuted, and submitted to every torment that a diseased mind could contrive.

"For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?" (Jer. 30:5-6).

The sheer terror expressed by these verses was lived by those who experienced the deportation to the Nazi death camps. Elie Weisel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace prize, wrote of his personal experience in a book called Night. "Among the 80 people crammed into the train's cattle car was a woman named Madam Schac-ter. Separated from her husband and two sons, she had gone out of her mind. On the third night, after leaving Hungary, a piercing cry split the silence: 'Fire! I can see a fire! I can see a fire!' There was a moment's panic. It was Madame Schacter. She pointed her arm toward the window screaming, 'Look! Look at it! A terrible fire! Mercy! Oh, that fire!' Some of the men pressed against the bars. There was nothing there, only the darkness. She continued to scream, breathless, her voice broken by sobs. 'Jews, listen to me! I can see a fire! There are huge flames! It is a furnace!' We tried to explain it away; more to calm ourselves and to recover our own breath than to comfort her. 'She must be very thirsty, poor thing. That's why she keeps talking about a fire devouring her.' Our terror was about to burst the sides of the train. Our nerves were at a breaking point. Our flesh was creeping. It was though madness were taking possession of us all. We could stand it no longer. A few days more and we should all have started to scream too. But we had reached a station. Those who were next to the windows told us its name- AUSCHWITZ. And as the train stopped, we saw this time that flames were gushing out of a tall chimney into the black sky. We looked at the flames in the darkness. There was an abominable odor floating in the air. Suddenly, our doors opened. 'Everybody get out! Everyone out of the wagon! Quickly!' We jumped out. In front of us were flames. In the air was that smell of burning flesh. We had arrived at Birkenau, reception center for Auschwitz. Not far from us, flames were leaping up from a ditch, gigantic flames. They were burning something. A lorry drew up at the pit and delivered its load-little children. Babies! Yes, I saw it-saw it with mine own eyes... those children in the flames. I pinched my face. Was I still alive? Was I awake? I could not believe it. No, none of this could be true. It was a nightmare..."4

In Auschwitz alone, as many as two and a half million people were exterminated, and a half million others died of hunger and disease. In a sworn affidavit signed on April 5, 1945, Rudolf Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, testified: "...All told 3 million people died... the victims included 100,000 German Jews and large numbers of other nationals, mostly Jews, from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and other countries. In the summer of 1944 alone, we put 400,000 Hungarian Jews to death at Auschwitz... The mass murder by gas began in 1941 and continued until the fall of 1944... I myself was in command of the killings in Auschwitz until Dec. 1, 1943, and subsequently continued in a supervisory role in the concentration camps... The commander of the Treblinka camp told me that he had exterminated 800,000 people in 6 months. He was involved primarily in the liquidation of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas and, in my opinion, his methods were not effective. Therefore, when I started the extermination in Auschwitz, I used crystal flake acid, Zyklon B... we knew when people had died, because their screaming stopped."5

Auschwitz is but one example. In the Lodz Ghetto in Warsaw only 800 of the 200,000 incarcerated there survived. At the Chelno death camp, of the 400,000 Jews sent there, only 2 survived. 750,000 were murdered at Treblinka; at least 40,000 perished at Dauchau; and there were others.

"By the most exact estimates of recent research, the number of Jews killed in Europe between September 1939 and May 1945 was nearly six million. Such a total, however, can never be complete. Thousands of infants and babies were murdered by the Nazi killing squads in the autumn of 1941, for example, before their birth could be recorded for any statistical purpose. Thousands more individuals, especially in the remoter villages of Poland, were added to the deportation trains which left larger localities, without any register being made of their existence or fate. For several hundred Jewish communities throughout Europe, the most that the historical research of more than 35 years has been able to record is some such phrase as 'the fate of this community is unknown.' Throughout Europe, the traveller to this day comes across monuments and gravestones to the victims. Stones mark the mass graves of individuals of whom nothing will ever be known; not their names, their ages, their birthplaces, nor indeed their total number."6

By the war's end, 6,000,000 Jews were dead. The Holocaust had such an impact on the Jewish community at large that even the traditional Passover service was revised to make mention of this dark day in Jewish history: "We remember with tenderness the millions of our own people who only yesterday were mercilessly crushed by a tyrant more wicked than the Pharaoh who enslaved our fathers in Egypt. Men, women, and children did they annihilate in the chambers of fire and the factories of death." They they recite in unison: "I believe in the coming of Messiah. Though he may tarry. Nevertheless I wait. I wait and do believe, That He will come."7

In all the land of Europe, two-thirds of the Jews were cut off and only one third survived the fires of Auschwitz to witness the birth of the nation of Israel. The Holocaust continues to be a witness to humanity of the goodness and severity of God. Headlines abound concerning it, whether it be Arafat's visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Nazi gold hoarded in secret accounts stolen from its victims, or war crimes trials in France; even the entertainment industry has brought the Holocaust to the masses in such films as Schindler's List.

The importance of this event cannot be overestimated. Israel has risen up again out of the ashes of the death camps and crematories. The Jewish nation has been resurrected. Because of the Holocaust, Israel now lives by the providence of God.

One Jewish writer expressed it beautifully: "We are not like other people, we are the chosen people of God, the indestructible people of God, the people of God whose destiny it is to see His Kingdom on earth. Let us remember that. Let us know it and believe it. For two millennia of an exile that saw pogroms and Inquisitions, Crusades and Auschwitzes, the Jew believed and proclaimed his uniqueness. It was only this belief, this certainty that allowed him to survive, that gave him the will to stand irrationally and illogically against impossible odds and against a whole world and shout: I will emerge victorious and you will be defeated; I will return home and there is nothing you can do to prevent it."8

Kerry Chandler
Little Rock, Arkansas
(Bibliography available from publisher upon request.)

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