Holocaust. It is a word that has the power to haunt us. For Jewish people, the Holocaust serves as a reminder of the precarious foothold the Jewish community holds in this world— and how quickly the world can turn against us.
If there is any event in history that Jewish people point to as an illustration of why they cannot believe in Jesus, it is the Holocaust. Here are some of the common Holocaust-related questions Jewish people might ask, along with some suggested responses:
Question. If there is a God, where was He during the Holocaust?
This question may be asked in two ways. The first assumes that the answer, “nowhere,” is self-evident. However, this question may also be asked in a sincere effort to reconcile the terrible mystery of God’s unfailing goodness with the horrors of human history. Where was God? Who has not, at some time, cried out as the Psalmist did, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble” (Psalm 10:1)?
God permitted the Holocaust to occur. Where was He? He was in the same position that He occupied at Calvary as Jesus suffered on the cross. God was suffering alongside those who were mercilessly killed by the enemies of the God of Israel. It is one of the most compelling characteristics of the gospel— our God suffers with us and for us.
Question. Where was the Church?
History tells us that after the early fourth century, Christianity became the preeminent faith of the Western world. The Catholic Church also became a powerful political force.
As a political power, the Church soon became immersed in the intrigues common to allpowerful institutions. Eventually, it became more concerned with wielding power and its own survival than in bearing the cross of Messiah. In many instances, it became corrupt. This corruption, combined with the entrenched antisemitism often encouraged by the Church, helped to create the environment that spawned the Holocaust. There were notable exceptions, however, such as those churches in Holland and even Germany who clearly saw the choice between good and evil and acted accordingly—often at great cost.
Question. How can the gospel be true if Christians killed six million Jews?
Christians did not perpetuate the Holocaust—the Nazis did. Many believing Christians died in the Holocaust and many risked their lives to help the Jewish people. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, has even dedicated a part of its site to commemorate non-Jewish “rescuers” who helped Jewish people avert death at the hands of the Nazis. It is true that many Christians were ambivalent or slow to act. However, it is unfair to put the full blame for the Holocaust upon Christians.
Question. What will happen to the religious Jews who died during the Holocaust?
We have saved the toughest question for last. If we say, as the Scriptures proclaim, that salvation is found only in Jesus the Messiah, our Jewish seeker will accuse us of condemning the Jewish millions not only to the ovens, but to eternal condemnation in hell. Many will ask, “Is this the act of a righteous God?”
We need not surrender the gospel message in an attempt to justify God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). No one is able to know the destiny of another, nor the lengths to which God will go to reveal Himself in the final moments of an earthly life. The Scriptures also proclaim, “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8). We believe that only those who consciously trust in Jesus will be saved. We simply do not know what happens in the hearts of individuals prior to their death. Only God knows!
Show Them the Way
There is no more terrible blight on humanity than the Holocaust. As easy as it may seem to place the blame wholly on Hitler and the German people, we know nothing is that simple. There is a far darker cause that underlies the attempted extermination of God’s chosen people. It is Satan’s wrath poured out on the canvas of human history and the sin that blights our creation.
Perhaps, for the Jewish seeker and many others, the awareness of sin can serve as the signpost pointing to something far greater—the holiness and goodness of God and the gospel that saves us: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
Originally published in The Chosen People, Vol. XXV, Issue 4, May 2019