27 November 2017
Jewish people often ask how is it that a G-d who loves and cares for them ever allowed the terrible holocaust to occur. It is trying to answer this heart wrenching question that I wrote this article. May it somehow be a comfort to many, I pray.
Jan Willem van der Hoeven
|WHY THE HOLOCAUST?|
Again and again, I hear people who are questioned about the holocaust say that there is no explanation for this terrible tragedy, which befell the Jewish people at the end of nearly 2000 years dispersion. How could God have allowed it? What was the reason and how can one still believe in a God Who apparently allowed such a disaster of such magnitude including the massacre of 1 ½ million children to take place in “Christianized Europe.”
First of all, let me hereby state that the Holocaust was prophesied about in the scriptures. That a terrible, terrible disaster would happen to the Jewish people just before they would return to their own land.
In Ezekiel we read the following verses:
The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.
Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’
Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.
I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord. (37:1,2,11-14)
And in Jeremiah 30:5-7,10,11
For thus says the Lord:
‘We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.
Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labour with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labour, and all faces turned pale?
Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the Lord, nor be dismayed, ‘O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid.
For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to say you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.’
And in Zechariah 1:14-16
So the angel who spoke with me said to me, “Proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal.
I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped – but with evil intent.”
Therefore, thus says the Lord: “I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,” says the Lord of hosts, “And a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”‘
The very long road of suffering which began with the destruction visited on Jerusalem and Israel by Titus in 70AD, costing at least 600,000 lives, and ending with the slaughter of 6,000,000 Jews by the Nazi’s with much suffering, persecution and massacres in between these two horrible and climatic events. This has been the sad history of the Jewish people from the days of their dispersion from their land in 70 AD until their return during this last century.
In the biblical sense for the Jewish people to be outside of their God-given land was already seen as a punishment. The Bible calls it captivity or imprisonment. In God’s eyes the worst form of punishment was to bar them from their own land and to have his own holy Temple destroyed by uncircumcised gentiles. It surely was the worst form of punishment, which happened twice to the Jewish people – first during the time of Nebuchadnezzar and then later the second time under Titus.
Both Jeremiah, the warning weeping prophet, and later Jesus, who also wept over Jerusalem, foretold in detail of these terrible occurrences: the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the dispersion of the Jewish people. But sadly, they were not listened to.
God, Himself, had warned His people right at the beginning through His servant Moses when He had held out the terrible, terrible consequences of not observing to all the words of His law when He said in Deuteronomy 28:58-67:
If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD,
Then the Lord will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues – great and prolonged plagues – and serious and prolonged sicknesses.
Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you.
Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, will the Lord bring upon you until you are destroyed.
You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.
Then the Lord will scatter you among all people, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have know – wood and stone.
And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul.
Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life.
In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.
Does this all mean that therefore all the anti-Semites and all those who have perpetrated these terrible things against God’s people are to be excused? NO! And as God announces through the verses already quoted (Jeremiah 30:10,11 and Zechariah 1:14-16), He is furious with the nations and those who have perpetrated these things against His people and He will surely punish them even as He said, “make a full end of them.” As He warns through Isaiah:
For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish and those nations shall be utterly destroyed. (60:12)
Not withstanding the safest place for the Jewish people is Israel. The proof of God’s returning favor towards them is He opening the doors of opportunity for them to return home to the land of their fathers.
It is there in a unique sense where God has promised to protect them, not outside this land under the continual threat of the wolves among the Gentiles, as indeed they have experienced throughout their long Diaspora – from the Crusaders to the Spanish inquisition, from the pogroms to the Gates of Auschwitz and Birkenau.
One of the most gratifying compliments I received was from a Jewish agnostic who heard me speaking to a mixed audience of Jews and Christians in Budapest. He said: ‘I want you to know that with your one speech you have answered all the questions I had.’ That evening I tried to explain, as I have since on other occasions, that it was not God who was to blame during the days of the holocaust but man. Firstly, of course the perpetrators and bystanders who did nothing to help the Jews or prevent the misery laid upon, but secondly the Jews for not responding to the warnings of God through the Zionists who warned the Jews in Europe to flee to safety and end the Diaspora, otherwise as Jabotinsky said, “the Diaspora would one day liquidate them.”
Max Nordau said: “One third of you shall perish, one third shall be assimilated and one third shall be saved by returning to Zion.” But the majority of European Jewry did not believe all these people and Zionists. Theodore Herzl, himself, writes in his diary, ‘I have the right to become the world’s greatest anti-Semite!” So did the Jews in Europe fight him and resist him for wanting to help them escape or immigrate to Palestine when it still was possible.
God touched the heart of Arthur Balfour also using his dedicated and believing aunt to open up Palestine for the Jews to return there. But all this was to no avail for the majority of Jews living in Europe at the time. Jabotinsky, after having traveled and preached all over Europe warning the Jews to leave, died as a pauper in New York – unheeded by most of his fellow Jews. Yet the Jewish people often dare to question where was our God when we perished under the Nazi heel in Europe? A God, who like a concerned and caring father, first touched the hearts of the fiery Zionists, Herzl, Jabotinsky, Nordau and others to warn them and added to these men His Christian men and women who helped them in this endeavor. God then touched the hearts and minds of the British leaders to open up the land of Israel for Jewish emigration. He is still questioned when He could have left them without warning, without a way of escape to face the holocaust that He at least saw coming in all its fury. As he speaks through Zechariah 1:15, “I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry and they helped – but with evil intent.” Yes, God was angry with His people and that is why He threw them out of their land. ‘Captivity’ or ‘prison term’ is what the Bible calls this punishment. He said they would become a proverb, find no rest for the sole of their feet, languish away, “would heap disasters upon them” (Deuteronomy 32:23) but in the end He would gather them again from all the countries of their dispersion and end their long centuries of captivity and lead them back to their land.
He made full provision in His kindness and mercy to see them return to that land BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST STRUCK. The land of Palestine during those awful years of the Holocaust and World War II was the safest place for them. The Nazi’s came as far as the Balkans and Greece and as far as Alamein near Sinai, but God never allowed them to touch or enter into His land. If they had listened to the warnings and asked God to help them when He opened the doors of Palestine to go – they would all have been safe. It was not God that was to blame that six million Jews perished. He did not only not want it – He even provided a way of escape but they did not want to leave the ‘fleshpots’ of Europe!
It was as Jews have sometimes had the honesty to remark – the Holocaust saved them from completely forgetting that they were not like the others – however much they wanted to assimilate – they were Jews. A Jew once said to me, “The Holocaust made me a Zionist.” So God in His wisdom and mercy – however cruel and dreadful this experience was, however much the nations who did it and allowed it to happen to His people will as yet bear the punishment for it – nevertheless used it to get His people home! It was a Jewish friend who, as a French Jew had survived Auschwitz being beaten nearly every day, had completely lost any faith in His God through the many unbearable cruelties he had seen and watched. The day came that he was in a believer’s house, alone, and had an amazing vision of an encounter with the Lord. He said first, “I do not want to talk to you. You let six million of my people die – there is nothing to talk about!” He said, though he spoke these such Jewish words, the Lord kept looking at him with such unbelievable love and tenderness that he felt his icy heart, after all the years of closure, melt that he was able to finally ask this questions to the Lord: “Why did you allow it to happen? Why?” The Lord answered him by saying that if it had not been for the holocaust this sick and often anti-Semitic world would never have accepted His plan of the revival and restoration of the Jewish people on their land. I had never heard this answer before. But when I began to think about it I knew it was true. If it had not been for the Holocaust, the United Nations would never have reached a majority to agree with the rebirth of the young State of Israel. It was in view of and under the influence of the dreadful Holocaust that even this evil world, the domain of the Evil One and Prince of this world – even this evil world under the impression of the horrendous Holocaust was willing to give the Jewish people a few hours of mercy before it returned back again to its old and evil anti-Semitic ways.
As I found written on a note left by an Israeli who visited the place where they gassed the Jews in Auschwitz:
It’s here in this dark and dreary place, Where the light went out.
I press my ear into the ground, I still can hear them shout.
It’s Chayle from Warsaw, Ellie from Berlin,
Arik from Budapest, Where do I begin?
We have come back so we can keep that memory alive.
We are a living monument to how we have survived.
Through we are living with the pain of many millions gone,
We are living, and we shall keep marching on.
For a time, they pitied us. They let us have our land.
But soon their pity turned to hate as we rose up again.
There are those who tried to say the whole thing is just a lie.
But we are here to show the world that we will never die.
There is one important distinction to be made however in relation to the sufferings of the Jewish people. According to the scriptures there is no promised protection for the Jewish people for their time among the Gentiles – the opposite is true. Once they are cast out of their land they would again and again become the objects of disaster and persecution. It is only when they finally are allowed to come back into their land that things will change drastically – as we have seen so far with Israel. They would win every war, whereas during their time in the Diaspora it was pretty easy for the anti-Semitic Gentiles to attack and harass them. Now that they are back they have won every war and will according to the prophets win every future war. (They will win the Gog and Magog war and even the Armageddon war).
As it is clearly prophesied by Jeremiah 30: 10&11:
Therefore, do not fear, O My servant Jacob, says the Lord, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid.
For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end o you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.
The following are passages of a letter I once wrote about this subject to Mr. Elie Wiesel, the famous Holocaust Survivor from Auschwitz, who for many became the voice of the Holocaust:
Sometimes I have been asked over the many years that I have lived in Jerusalem, “where was God when the Holocaust occurred?” It is a terrible question and may be as you said, more terrible to try to answer. But then by not answering it, the One who pays the bill is God. The very One I am meant to love with all my heart, is left in the unholy position of being accused of failing to live up to be the One He claimed to be, a merciful Father. So not to answer is making Him pay. He will be doubted. He will be accused. He who suffered more with and for His people during all these years, more than can even be imagined or expressed. Does He need to be punished? You expressed it so beautifully in your speech when you said that in the beginning it was not man questioning God but God putting His question to man, “Where are you?” I loved this point you made, I dislike man’s arrogance always giving himself the right to question God, without being willing to be exposed to God questioning Him.
The book of Job is one of the most poignant examples of this. First there are the cheap, religious, neatly-cut answers by his friends, which do not satisfy either Job or God, so that in the end Job has to pray for his religious self-assured friends. Then comes Job’s near-rebellious questioning of God right through the book, and finally God answers Job, as you said in your speech, by questioning Job. It is only then that the righteous Job, a tsadik (a righteous one), says, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
It is a pity how we who claim to believe the Book of Books, often conveniently interpret that book to fit our own outlook and philosophy. God saw the monstrous power of prejudice and anti-Semitism coming up like a loud in the hearts and minds of many Europeans in the beginning of this century. And in His love and mercy for His people, began to work for His people in preparing them a way of escape, which was Israel. He touched the heart of Theodore Herzl, who wrote, “We Jews have not yet sufficiently been trampled upon to believe that our only hope is to return to Zion.” Jabotinsky said to thousands upon thousand, “liquidate the Diaspora or the Diaspora will liquidate you.” However His people, that God through all these men wanted to save, did not want to leave the fleshpots of Europe in accord with God’s own promise: “And I will gather you from the nations where you have scattered and bring you back to the land of your fathers.” He had even made it politically possible, not only by sending the Zionists but also by putting it in the heart of Balfour to officially open up the land of Palestine for Jewish immigration.
However Jabotinsky died as a pauper in New York, Theodore Herzl felt so rejected that he wrote in his diary, “I have the right to become the world’s greatest anti-Semite,” and he died an early death.
The people that had laughed about these messengers of God’s love, pleading with them to go up to Zion, died in the Holocaust. Your God, who warned your people of the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar through Jeremiah; of the Roman Holocaust by Titus through Jesus; and of the horrible, horrible liquidation by Hitler through the fiery Zionists, and opened the door of escape through Balfour, is nevertheless still questioned!
I remember how Mr. Begin spoke some years ago at the Western Wall, the same evening that you spoke for the 5,000 Holocaust survivors and asked them this question, “My people, where was our God when six million of our people were brutally murdered?” I still remember his answer, he said, “If it had not been for the mercy of the Lord that left us a remnant to see this day of our redemption, we would have all been like Sodom and Gomorrah, and let us not forget that our generation that saw the darkest page in our history also saw the brightest page, the return to Eretz Israel and Jerusalem. It is this generation that saw a returned Jerusalem.”
Dear Mr. Wiesel, I am a Gentile who believes with all my heart in what you Jews have taught about our God. I believe it is you and your people that He wants to bring home to Israel, to bring then this world home to Himself, when He will be King over all the world in Jerusalem. I live and pray earnestly for this day. I believe that in the end the quickest way to be involved with the redemption of this world is not by trying to be wiser than God, but by praying for the peace of Jerusalem. It is only from this city that one day all killing and injustice among the nations will stop.
This world is not helped just by fighting for all the rights of men. It will only become a peaceful paradise of justice under the rightful reign of the Lord and that through His people in Jerusalem. After all the suffering you have gone through you still prefer New York to Jerusalem. I wonder why, as a Gentile who lives with burning faith in your city’s and people’s destiny in Jerusalem.
What will bring the Jews home, to become then channels of blessing to the world? New outbursts of anti-Semitism? If you were in God’s place – all loving and caring – wanting to bring the Jews of America and other nations home to heal this sad, torn world, how would you go about it?
You have a golden mouth, the hand of God is upon you. How would you go about convincing you Jewish people to come home? Will you be successful after all the sufferings they experienced in their history, after all the promises of God to bring them back to the land of their fathers, after all the centuries of praying at Seder night, “LaShana haba’a b’Yerushalayim?” With all these biblical incentives in your hand, with your enormous gifts, would you as God’s instrument be successful in bringing them to understand that this world will never become again the place it was created to be – without the Jews coming up to Jerusalem to present themselves as a nation to God for Him to heal the world through.
Do we force anti-Semitism, as horrible as it is, upon us as the only way through which God is able to convince us? I hope not.
Jan Willem van der Hoeven
Director International Christian Zionist Center