“What do I tell them?” the youth pastor asked me. He’d taken a group of twenty teenagers to Auschwitz. “Now, they’ve got so many questions, and I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know what to tell myself.”
“Tell them the Holocaust proves that the gospel is true,” I said, then proceeded to explain what I meant by that shocking statement.
The world tells us that we possess an intrinsic goodness that’s just waiting to come out, and that evil is a response to situations that cause people to go against their better nature. I’ve heard it said, “If only we’re given the right tools, the right opportunities and the right encouragement, then that basic goodness will rise to the benefit of us all.” As for the Holocaust, we’re told, “That was a grotesque anomaly. Those horrors were committed by humanity’s aberrations, not by normal people.”
But the Bible and the course of history tell us something else. “The heart is more deceitful than all, and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). No matter how good we hope to be, there’s a sickness within our hearts called sin. When that sin is given free reign or the endorsement of a society, then there’s no limit to the brutality that we can unleash upon ourselves and others. The Gospel tells us that we need to be rescued from the sin that resides within us all.
The Gospel also tells us that we cannot rescue ourselves, and the Holocaust confirms that truth. We can’t hide behind the notion that the Holocaust occurred because a new “Dark Ages” had descended upon the world. Science and technology had raced forward. Art and culture had flourished. Philosophy and psychology had given us new insights into how we think, what we believe, and why we act. But none of these advances could stop the Holocaust from taking place. Despite our achievements, the human condition and the human heart remained the same.
The Holocaust would leave us without any hope, if it weren’t for the fact that there is hope – in the Gospel. God promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:26).
That new heart works miracles in two directions. It safeguards us from committing crimes in the future, and it grants us access to forgiveness for crimes we’ve committed in the past. Some years ago, I met a Polish believer in Jesus who loves my Jewish people passionately, but who had been haunted for years by crimes that her father committed against us during the war. God gave me the grace to tell her, “Your father is dead, and so is your relationship to him. But you and I are alive, and we’re family, because of the Messiah Yeshua.” In this small instance, the Holocaust proved that God’s grace is real, and that God is the God of the impossible, making former enemies one in the Lord.
The Holocaust proves at least one more crucial truth about the Gospel. The Holocaust proves that no region is beyond the Lord’s reach. No darkness can prevent the penetration of His Gospel light. I marvel with incredible sadness at Christians who say that because of the Holocaust, my Jewish people cannot hear the Gospel and be saved. I marvel at Christians who use the Holocaust as an excuse to shield my people from the Good News, as though Jesus were to blame for the atrocities that took place. I wish I could introduce you to Rachmiel Frydland, Vera Schlam and Eliezar Urbach – messianic Jews and survivors of the Holocaust whom I had the privilege of knowing. But they’ve all died, and now they’re with the Lord. So, the introductions will have to wait. I wish I could introduce you to Rose Price and Manfred Wertheim as well as other survivors who’ve come to faith.
What does the Holocaust prove? It proves that the Gospel is true; that we need to be rescued. It proves that the Gospel is necessary; for we cannot rescue ourselves. And it proves that the Gospel saves, even in the darkest of times. The Gospel really is “the power of God for salvation to anyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).