The best reasons proposed by the wisest people of this age are pathetically inadequate to answer this question. And perhaps the answers to the questions raised by the Holocaust, ‘Where was God when the six million died? What does it mean? How can life have any meaning in the face of such an orgy of torture and death?’ are just too frightening to be faced, because ultimately it’s not just a matter of one race turned against another, one religion trying to exterminate a competing religion, nor of political expediency. Rather the awful truth lies in the very nature of all men at all times.
There have been holocausts before. Among our own people: the days of Pharaoh or of Haman. In recent times, there have been genocides in Sudan, Rwanda and Bosnia.
The Holocaust serves as further evidence that man’s very nature is warped and perverted, carrying within it mankind’s greatest curse. Rabbinic theology cannot explain how a just, loving, merciful God who declares Israel to be his chosen people could allow such a thing to happen. This differs from Biblical thought, which teaches that man is innately evil and that we are born with a nature that will inevitably sin. This is shown by Psalm 51:5, ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.’
In rabbinic thought, there is the presumption that somehow man can suppress this evil urge. The study of Torah, the observance of mitzvoth and the practice of prayer are suggested as sufficient to strengthen the human constitution in conquering the evil urge within. But this was not the teaching of the prophets and original Judaism. Jeremiah wrote, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jer 17:9).
One of the most disconcerting facts of the Holocaust is that many Nazis were supremely sincere. But man’s sincere belief that he is doing the right thing is simply not enough to ensure righteousness, for the greatest atrocities have always been committed in the name of truth, religion and nationalism.
Man’s capacity to do evil and to tolerate the evil done by others far exceeds any humanistic philosophy’s ability to explain. Man is most dangerous when he believes he is absolutely right. Sincerity is as loyal a servant of evil as it is of good.
We need a Saviour who is more powerful than all the nations of this world combined. When confronted by our own human eagerness to be seduced by the attractive and the powerful, no matter what banners they display, our urgent need is for something far greater than mere good intentions and inward impulses. We need the intervention of the Creator himself to save all of us from ourselves.
The Jewish people will survive in spite of Pharaohs, Hamans, Hitlers and all of the demonic forces of this world. It is right to mourn over the six million destroyed, but one must see that if the forces of evil could have prevailed, our Jewish people would have been annihilated three millennia before this time. It is true that the Holocaust happened, but it is also true that God has preserved the Jewish people, and we have survived as evidence that the Bible is true and that God does keep his word.
How can you believe in God, let alone Jesus after the horrors of the Holocaust?