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The Holocaust

I’m traveling today to Jerusalem to work with our Day of Discovery team on a new series of “land of the Bible” programs. As I prepare to leave I’m reminded of some thoughts I had after returning from a similar assignment a couple of years ago.

What I wrote is a bit long for a daily post, but when you get a chance I wish you would read my attempt at an open letter to an Israeli friend who made it clear to me that he couldn’t imagine believing in Jesus after what his family and nation endured in the Holocaust.

Dear Eli,

Hope you’re doing well. Sure enjoyed our conversations during my recent stay in Jerusalem.

Since you are aware of my confidence in the Gospel accounts, I appreciate your willingness to talk so freely about your own spiritual journey. I’ve thought a lot about your struggle to believe in a God who would allow the Holocaust.

I also keep thinking about how different our backgrounds have been. You grew up in a home where your mother, after being the only sister in her family to survive the death camps, could not talk about God. I was raised in a house where we were taught to see our Creator not only in nature and in the daily provisions of life, but also in the history of your people.

I’ve also thought a lot about your observation that some people came out of the Holocaust with a complete loss of faith, while others responded not only with belief but also with deep devotion to God.

Your candor was refreshing. And when you asked if I thought you were being unreasonable, I knew I could quickly say, “no”-while sensing that you had asked a very difficult question.

Part of me wants to say that the systematic, state-sponsored killing of your people had everything to do with human evil and nothing to do with God. But then I’m reminded of the God of the Jewish Scriptures who had His reasons for allowing pagan nations to tear down the walls of Jerusalem, while breaking His own heart in the process.

I’ve also thought about your comment that the closest you come to sensing God is in the wilderness. I too have felt the wonder of wide-open space and silence. Away from the sounds of the city, I’ve sensed not only the presence of God but also the capacity for moral choice and consequence that eventually bring me back to the commotion of the city.

On a couple of occasions I’ve heard the air-raid sirens that wail in Israel on your Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’ve watched as you stopped whatever you were doing and stood in silence for one minute. In that annual moment of remembrance, I think I’ve seen something of what it means to be a “chosen people.” From the days of Abraham, your people have been center stage in the story of human civilization. Sometimes you have been a guiding light for your neighbors. On other occasions, your story has been like an unnerving siren reminding us that something terrible has happened to our world.

No, your ancestors didn’t ask to be a “chosen people.” Nor do I believe the outcome would have been any different if God had formed or miraculously preserved any other ethnic group. Because human nature is universal, the story would have been the same, under a different name. It could just as well have been the French, the Germans, or the Japanese who had to face the reality that it’s hard to be a “chosen people.” Any other nation chosen to be the people of Messiah would bear the same burden.

In mentioning Messiah, I know your suspicion that anti-Semitism has roots in Gospel records that portray your people as “Christ-killers.” Even though the New Testament is written by Jewish authors about a Jewish Messiah, non-Jewish people have made far too much of the fact that some Jewish leaders called for Jesus’ death. What too many have forgotten is that the rabbi from Nazareth died voluntarily, under the authority of a Roman governor, and at the hands of brutal Roman executioners. When Jewish people are singularly blamed for the death of Jesus, the good news of God’s own sacrifice for the atonement of our sin is missed. Those who point the finger at Jewish people also misrepresent the spirit of the New Testament that shows God’s love for Israel (MATTHEW 23:37; ROMANS 9:1-5; 10:1-4).

But Eli, if you are not ready to read the New Testament, I wish you would at least read again the ancient story of Job. The sages of Israel have long treasured his life as evidence that people do not suffer in proportion to their sins. Instead, as the Hebrew Scriptures show, God sometimes calls people like Job, the Israelites, and His Messiah to suffer for the sake of others. Job was a good man who suffered to show the rest of us that Satan-not God-is the source of evil. Israel’s troubles help us to see the danger of walking away from the protection of God. And the sufferings of God’s sinless Messiah are for the atonement of all who have left God to go their own way (ISAIAH 53).

I don’t believe the Hebrew Scriptures give us any reason to see the tragic events of the Holocaust as a picture of God’s individual judgment on those who died. Eternity alone will show what heaven was seeing in the hearts of those who suffered in such abandonment and darkness. But if this event had any relationship to the other tragic national days described in the Hebrew Scriptures, then a chosen nation’s troubles can be a spiritual wake-up call for all who are watching.

If I know anything about the God and Messiah of Israel, His heart was broken by the suffering of Jewish people in death camps of inexpressible evil. Yet, with irony that goes beyond words, the tears and the agony of those dark days are part of the wisdom God used in giving us the freedom to choose our own path. And if in choosing our own way, we miss the rescue of God’s Messiah, it is far more loving for Him to sound a siren than to be silent.

Eli, I hope this will help you to better understand where I’m coming from. I hope to hear from you when you get a chance.



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21 Responses to “The Holocaust”

  1. dep7547 says:

    Wow! Mart, you have been thinking a lot, lately. Last night, my eldest child–my only son, graduated high school and the class quote went something like this: It matters not about the breaths you take every moment, but those moments that take your breath away!” Attending the ceremony, were my parents whom I had not talked to in five years–God is so faithful even long after we have given up hope!

    After thinking about that quote last night, I arose this morning and saw another quote that took me by surprise! It was in your wonderfully written devotion this morning and it was well placed after the equally poignant sermonette on triumphing through failure. You stated, “Sometimes we are not ready to see the wonder of God’s wisdom and strength until we are gasping for breath in the exhaustion of our own strength.”

    I think you have written a wonderful account of what we Christians suffer in thought for the uncivilized treatment of God’s chosen people. Yet, after reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel, I understand how your friend must feel. The quote from his account that hit me like a tidal wave was when he stated, “Never will I forget the night that they murdered my God.” I pray that your friend receives your words in the spirit in which they were written.

    -God bless

  2. spooks101 says:

    as always mart your words are in inspiration. At present myself and a good friend are experiencing very tough times and many times he has asked me ‘Were is God?’.

    Yet reading your words I feel its not about whats happening now, but its about God bringing us out of this suffering, into the dawn light. That everything has a beginning and an end, including suffering. your explanation of your own faith gets a definite thumbs up. we shall keep fighting the good fight. thank you.

  3. desert rose says:

    While the holocust was horrific beyond any of our imaginations, I look at the Old Testament, and the battles where Israel was to destroy every person; man, woman and children.  Just as we cannot explain why God had commanded such destruction, God knows.  Why the Jewish people had to go undergo such unthinkable horrors, only God knows.  But these Jewish people were helped by Christians and that in itself is a means of them hearing about the risen Savior.

    No one has an answer of “Why” except God himself.  We only see a small picture but he sees the whole picture.  Certainly what has happened to the Jewish people was uncomprehensable (spelling?) The fact is, the Jewish people today are not the trusting people they once were, they do not let their guard down and are aware that they have enemies.

    We need to continue to “Pray for the peace of Jersusalem” and realize that the days of the Gentiles will come to an end, and then the prophecy that the Jewish people will be reached will come to pass.

    As Believers, we too, are Jewish by a Spiritual Process of ‘being born again.’ By faith we are Jewish. It will not surprise me at all if in the future that the Believers will also be hated and persecuted.

    I am thankful we “rest in His care.”

  4. daisymarygoldr says:

    Even till this day one can hear the cries of Jeremiah reverberate-“I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:21-22). “…in vain you will use many medicines; you shall not be cured” (Jeremiah 46:11)

    Having personally experienced the healing effect of that balm (Genesis 37:25), Joseph had a better answer to comfort his people- “…God will certainly come to help you” (Exodus 13:19)

    Ironically, the very Physician who was rejected is the ultimate Great Physician, even Jesus Christ the balm of Gilead (Is 53) to bring healing to all (Jews or Gentiles). Today, God is using His followers to proclaim Christ and His healing touch to restore a wounded and grieving people (Isaiah 62:11-12)!
    Praying for you and your team’s safe and successful journey…

  5. brownsfan1642 says:

    The problem of evil in the world is one of the toughest issues there is to wrestle with. I know this isn’t a book forum :) but I found real help on this subject in Os Guinness’ book “Unspeakable: Facing Up To Evil in an Age of Genocide and terror.” Maybe it will help others as well.

  6. Gena says:

    While waiting for my husband’s city bus to drop him off, I sought the cool shelter of a nearby college building where I visited a small Anne Frank Holocaust Memorial. I observed several photos and accompanying stories about people who had survived the Holocaust and some about people who had lost their lives. All those people…. they’re just like you and me. Ordinary people who found themselves fleeing for their lives and being held captive. One one display there was a quote by Adolf Hitler who astonishingly attributed his reason for these acts to our Creator. I could not bear to look at those words nor the photo of that individual. I was not there, but I felt the oppression. Then I saw Anne’s display and her sweet words. I felt I could completely relate to her determination not to allow the events to prevent her from seeing beauty from ashes. Then as I exited the exhibit, I walked under a canopy of paper butterflies made by school children. I felt lighter than when I had entered and was thankful I was a child of God who loved the Jews as much as He loves all others. Your friend can count me a friend who will love and respect him and the Jewish community. Just tell Eli, he is much loved.

  7. poohpity says:

    Desert rose believers were persecuted from the beginning of the church until now all over the world. If you were referring to the United States at times we have but a taste of what the future holds for all believers, but we are very blessed here.

    It always has confused me what people do to other people. When I was in Africa last summer, I cried to the Lord how can you let this go on? The answer He gave me was, “that is why you are here now to bring some comfort and love to those hurting”. We sometimes get caught up in the questions of “WHY” that we loose sight of what we can do to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us. Our job is not to ask “why” but “what can I do to bring comfort to the hurting”.

  8. Elaa says:

    Once when I wasn’t feeling too excited about how things were going in my life, I told a friend that it would hav been nice to jump out my apartment window. But the love of God constrained me. When I told a friend, she just laughed and said she was glad I had more sense. She said to me something to the effect that, ‘you would have jumped out that window, survived, become crippled with face injuries, have medical bills to pay with income that you don’t have, in short, end up with a more miserable life, and you would not have been able to leave the faith!

    Sometimes, I said I don’t trust God. It’s not really in a negative manner. But it’s like, being omnipotent, I feel He is able to let things go totally out of control and then restore order.

    I have read that some holocaust victims did see God even with their experiences. I can imagine how challenging trusting God is to have such an experience given that I feel challenged with my own can’t-be-compared horrifying experiences. But God is always in it, somewhere. I pray Eli and all other hurting people can find Him.

  9. paul bishop says:

    Can the clay say to the potter, ” why did you make me
    this way “? I believe God to be Sovereign in all
    things. I certainly have suffered through hell on
    earth ( mental illness ). Better to enter life
    maimed than to be well and go to hell.
    The psalmist: ” It is good that I was afflicted, that
    I might learn thy statutes.”
    God’s promise in Romans: He works all things together
    for the good to those who love Him and who are called
    according to his purpose. God has given His Word to
    not only read and study, but to trust and to speak.

  10. hal.fshr says:


    I found your comment that I quote here quite interesting: “No, your ancestors didn’t ask to be a ‘chosen people.’ Nor do I believe the outcome would have been any different if God had formed or miraculously preserved any other ethnic group. Because human nature is universal, the story would have been the same, under a different name. It could just as well have been the French, the Germans, or the Japanese who had to face the reality that it’s hard to be a ‘chosen people.’ Any other nation chosen to be the people of Messiah would bear the same burden.” Because of the sovereign act of God choosing Abraham out of the human race to establish a covenant with his offspring, I had never thought of other ethnic groups put in their place. The universality of human nature does certainly play into covenantal committments. Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. dejean33 says:

    My Dear Eli and The Universe,

    i am sorry

    i wish i could sit in silence w/ you for 7 days and 7 nights

    So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. Job 2:13

  12. pegramsdell says:

    Thank you Gena for your story, I was really touched.
    I am an Anne Frank fan. And I am so sorry for what happened at the Holocaust. They have truly suffered. I am so grateful to be grafted in the Jewish line by the blood of Jesus. What an honor.

  13. BruceC says:

    It is very difficult for me to even think about the Holocaust without tears welling up in my eyes. I remember as a very boy I was visiting my Grandfather and my Aunt(a good Christian woman that really affected me)I saw a paperback book about Eichmann the many B&W photos of the camps. Iasked my Aunt why this happened and how could people do this to others. She then gave me first explanation of what evil really is. when I got older I learned about these people and others who were resposible for a war that took 60 million lives! And to think there are those who would be and are willing to do it all over again really speaks to me of the depravity of the human heart apart from God. An excellent resource of the Holocaust is “The Hiding Place” in either movie or book format; by Corrie Tenboom. But the Lord is in control and someday, some glorious day……..

  14. Gena says:

    You’re very welcome Pegramsdell! I was thinking today about this Mart and thought…hmmmm…. the stories all those survivors and families of those who perished… the stories are like letters to loved ones and those who were, but had yet to come. I guess I wish for Eli and others like him to realize that his forefathers and the people of his country in the OT days..if they could have left behind letters explaining their circumstances and how they felt they might’ve would have done so. The Old Testament is like a series of letters that are sharing with us and people who will come long after we are gone to Glory, that despite all the hardships and all the tears ~ we truly loved the Lord and were so thankful for all He had done for us. Jesus is our anchor from OT to NT and for all eternity. How do I knwo that for sure ~ just writing this message to Eli and all ~ thats God showing He cares! Blessings to all and have a great weekend!

  15. desert rose says:

    I hope these messages can be read by Eli, for he and his people are loved and cared about. I am sorry for the horrific crimes against the Jewish people. May we all come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

  16. abqbishop says:

    Difficult to ponder the why’s of The Holocaust and what God’s will could have possiby been during that time? I think it was more of a society using their free will towards evil ends that God actually forcing(and he doesn’t anyway)his will on the victims. It’s unfortunate and perplexing, but I do believe one thing: God WILL render justice some day, and these types of evil people will be blotted out of exsistence! What angers God more than mass murder?

  17. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, and Eli, The God of Abraham, has told us that a person can come to Him, God through looking up, around, and at His great Creation, so that no one will have an excuse concerning His love for mankind.
    I believe everyone will be judged by the amount of light, or information they have recieved, and what they do with it.
    The new testement as we call it is not necasary for a person to be able to live with God through believing it.
    Abraham believed God and it has been accounted to him for righteousness.
    I know God knows you Eli, and loves you as he loved those that left this life 50 some years ago, do you believe those that left this life through what we have called the Holocost are in Hell, surely not, I am not saying everyone of them are with God, but i am sure many of them were glad to leave the life they were having to live, and are thanking God today, and are praying for you to come join them, if you really love them.
    My desire Eli is for you to come to know God the Creator well enough to know HE, God is Love, and always desires the very best for every human being, even though opur finite minds cannot comprehend how this can be many times, we can know this is true, and we can live out our lives by believing what God says, and not go on living on our feelings, and circustances that happen around us.
    God loves you Eli, Mart loves you, I love you, as well as everyone on this blog.
    God offers you Eternal life, and an abundant life while living in this life, if you will let God be God of your life.
    The greatest choice many have made before you, for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.

  18. kramnotrub says:

    Taking your advice of a previous column, I think we should “lower our expectations.” So the German government killed a few million people. They would have died anyway. Christians of Nazi Germany “lowered their expectations” and allowed Hitler to take political power from the people. So what’s the big deal about the holocaust? We should vote for those who oppose the Christian worldview and “settle for a political realism that grants people with opposing viewpoints the civil rights and protections we would want for ourselves” even if it means the wanton slaughter of millions of innocent people. We shouldn’t have the Ten Commandmants in government and public education because they tell us uncomfortable things like “thou shalt not kill.” Ex 20:13 Do you see where this kind of thinking leads? http://www.beenthinking.org/2008/06/03/the-voting-booth/

  19. Mart De Haan says:

    kramnotrub, thanks for indicating that you believe this “Holocaust” post runs contrary to what I wrote about in “The Voting Booth.”

    In that earlier article, I was trying to show where the thinking you summarized would lead if we tried to enforce all of the ten commandments, in a democratic system, rather than just the no-killing, no-stealing, and no-perjury laws.

    Still seems to me that followers of Christ need to support the general welfare of others without tying our reputation to a political party, and without confusing the roles of government and church.

  20. daisymarygoldr says:

    “…For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God” (Rom 13:1)

    Sometimes in our zeal for God we can sound very much like Simon Peter!
    First of all Jesus made it very clear that His kingdom “is not of this world”(John 18:36) and that Satan is the present ruler of this world (John 14:30). To this extent Jesus also rejected the ‘deal’ that the devil had offered to Him in the wilderness.

    Even after knowing that Jesus is Christ the son of the living God, Peter would not accept the fact about Jesus dying at the hands of the “rulers” and had to be rebuked “…You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matt. 16:23)

    Even after learning everything about God’s kingdom first hand from God himself, Peter burning with a Godly zeal of “following Jesus to death”, did not hesitate to whip out his sword as an act of defending his God. However, he soon fled from the scene only to deny His God…point blank- 3times!

    In all of this Jesus did not condemn Peter but lovingly ‘triple checked’ his love for HIM before commissioning him to feed His sheep- with LOVE. Jesus also gave Peter a glimpse of the consequence of “following Him” signifying ‘by what death he should glorify God’. Peter was also warned thrice in visions to stop “flaunting” the LAW and to not call something unclean if God has made it clean. Finally after knowing the real meaning of the ‘mind of Christ'(1Peter 4:1, Peter describes the ‘stewardship’ of a good citizen(1Peter 2:13-17).

    “Some trust in chariots (power of the vote) and some trust in horses (power of the elected govt), but we will trust in the Lord our God”. (Psalm 20:7)

  21. bookbuff1629 says:

    Recently a man said something like “how can there be a God and a holocaust? I can’t answer the question but I know there is God. Maybe if this man read “Each new Day” by Corrie ten Boom and other things she has written since her release, he might feel better.

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