God's Purpose and the Holocaust

Taken from Jacob Felton, in "The Times of Israel."

You have, in your letter, rejected the idea that our sufferings have preserved us, the Jewish people. I agree, though for some different reasons. Contrary to you, I believe that our being hated and persecuted for quite baseless reasons, was part of God's directing every step and minute in our history. The hatred preserved us. A guiding light inspired the Jewish underdog and preserved his nobility.

Allow me now to turn to one of the deepest, most terrible problems of this generation: Can you find any explanation for Hitlerism, Auschwitz? Is there, as Judaism teaches, a merciful God who allowed all that to happen? Perhaps even, if he is the Master of all history, caused it to happen, at least the basic events, even if the most barbaric cruelties may have been the Nazis' own added excesses? [cf. Zech. 1:15; Isa. 47:6; 2 Chr. 28:9]. You state simply, firmly: "All explanations fail... There is no answer."

I must differ. If we have the courage to read the Bible with an open mind, and if we look at "the state of the Jewish nation" shortly before the advent of Hitlerism and compare it with the position today, then the horror takes on sense. We have to apply some basic tenets of the Bible, among them:

Israel are God's chosen people, chosen to carry out the Torah, to be a holy nation and, at the End of Days, a nation, though small, to which other peoples will turn for enlightenment, "a light unto the nations" (Isa. 2:2; 47:6).

It can be shown that, without Hitlerism-although perhaps without the unspeakable cruelties which were the fiends' own excesses-Jewry, still destined to become "a light unto the nations," would have prematurely dissolved, and God's promise to gather us in again "from the ends of the earth" to our Land would have had to remain unfulfilled.

A clear historic meaning thus accrues to Hitlerism. The sufferings were only a passing earthly phase, richly to be made up for in Eternity. The Torah and prophets carry this message to the survivors and to all of us.

There can be no doubt that, without Hitlerism, Jewry would have completely assimilated within their host countries. An early date for "The Dissolution of German Jewry" was statistically calculated by Dr. Teilhaber, some years before Hitler. Other Jewries, such as in France and Scandinavia, were in an even worse state. The large Jewish populations in Eastern Europe and America did not hold out much hope for long-term stability either.

As the Bible tells us that God will not allow His people to go under, He had to intervene. We were given an excellent chance to avoid the Holocaust. Shortly after World War I, in the early years of the mandate, Jews could have settled in Palestine en masse. For anything between 2 million to 5 million pounds sterling (1920 value) we could have bought the whole country, including Jordan, from the effendis. Weizmann and his colleagues begged us to make the dream come true. Most of Jewry turned them down. The orthodox were waiting for the Messiah (and many of them were not keen on uprooting themselves), while for the others the risk of losing their Jewishness held no dread.

Thus we had to be driven, by cruel force, into our land. In this sense, the generation of the Holocaust, even the best among them, bore one great guilt: When the gates of Zion were open, they did not rush to enter them, contrary to what the majority of them were daily uttering in their prayers.

The enormity, the savagery, and the genocidal character, lacking even the excuse of any religious fanaticism, make the Nazi crimes the worst in all history. Most of the political powers and all the Churches were fully implicated.

However, the Nazis were not the first ruthless murderers. Consequently, prophets and Psalms deal with the problem of why God allows such foul deeds. Let me quote Isaiah 10:5 as an example. The Assyrians are there described as the executors of God's anger: "The rod in their hand is my indignation." However, while God set them loose to pillage and destroy, this affords no excuse to the Assyrians, for they had never intended to carry out God's will. In their heart was merely the wish to destroy, to cut off nations.

You see, the Bible gives an answer.

Reprinted from the
November 1971
Christadelphian Advocate

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