The Lesson of Auschwitz

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The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

 Auschwitz is the story of evil, the story of endurance and strength, and the story of good in the midst of unthinkable evil.

Bart, our guide at Auschwitz, shared his family’s stories of survival and those of other survivors. I asked him how he “did this every day,” and he said that he could not “do it” every day. He had to take a day off after telling of the horrors of Auschwitz.

“But I have to tell the stories. I must not let them be forgotten.” Thank you, Bart.

The Nazis promised a better life to the Jews, and they packed their belongings and gladly stuffed themselves into railroad cars to endure days-long journeys to camps like Auschwitz.

Once they arrived, women and children lined up on one side, and the men on the other side. They walked forward as a “doctor” pointed to the right or the left, the gas chamber or the camp.

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Those chosen for the gas chamber gladly put aside their clothes, their shoes, and their belongings for the promised showers.

Bart’s mother remembers the smell of flesh burning. Their ashes were dumped in holes like this one.

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Bart tells of a survivor who returned to Auschwitz. An electric fence separated the boy  and a guard who had a hot bowl of soup. The boy looked longingly. The guard held out the bowl and asked him if he’d like the soup. The boy looked at the fence and slowly moved his hands between the electrified barbed wire. The guard threw the scalding soup on the boy and laughed.

The people of Auschwitz and other concentration camps were professors, scientists, Jews, Catholics, and those who hid the Jews. They were children, teenagers, middle-aged, and old.

The people were strong. We were there while it was raining and cold. I wondered at how the people survived with only pajama-thin clothes, no coats or sweaters.

They lived in buildings with no electricity. Their beds were wooden shelves.

No comfort. Yet, the mothers wanted their children to have some hope and a few smiles. Mothers found a way to tell a cheerful story through their artwork.

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Evil did not triumph in that place.

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A panelist recently spoke at a conference I attended. She said that people are not bad; they sometimes make bad decisions. She blamed their circumstances and environment for the undesired outcomes; she did not acknowledge evil. I wonder how she would have explained the Nazi terror.

And it still goes on. 9-11. Beheadings. Boko Haram. Human trafficking.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

What’s the lesson?

God knows our hearts, and He has made a way to cleanse our hearts, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

He’s also promised that He will save the Jews. Romans 11:26

  • We are to endure in the love of Jesus.

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:12-13

  • We are to take heart in Jesus.

… in Me [Jesus] you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b

  • We are to tell others of the hope that is in us, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them. For Jesus is always with us.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

  • We can rest in the hope that is before us. He will wipe away our tears, and He is coming soon!

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

My prayer:

Father, You are good … all the time! Father, thank You that You love men and women so much that Jesus has taken even the evil of Auschwitz, Boko Haram, and other horrors upon Himself on the cross. He’s paid the price of this evil, so that the men and women who have committed it can come to You covered by Your grace and wrapped in Jesus’ righteousness. Help us O Lord, to love men and women the way Jesus does. Help us not to forget the lesson of Auschwitz. Show us our wickedness, and cause us to turn from our ways, confess our sins, and accept Your forgiveness and grace. Jesus, come quickly. Amen

 

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