When I became a believer in Jesus my mother said I was finishing Hitler’s work. I don’t think she believed that, but it was probably the strongest way possible for her to express her hurt and anger. You see, my father was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. He barely escaped the torture of the concentration camps. I well remember the rage in his voice and the pain reflected in his eyes as he told the story. After repeated attempts to escape the Nazis only to be captured and returned, he and his brother made a pact. They would commit suicide together before being sent to one of the death houses. Fortunately, it never came to that, despite the fact that my father lost most of his family for the crime” of being Jewish. I remember watching my father during the trial of Adolph Eichmann. He gazed intently at the television straining his eyes to see if there might be a trace of his loved ones among the carnage pictured.
Anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust in particular, has been a powerful force in shaping the thoughts and feelings of Jewish people. What many Christians do not realize is that signs over certain death camps announced to Jews who entered, “You killed our Lord, so now we kill you.” Nazis not only murdered Jews, but left many of those who survived with the mistaken notion that Jesus is to be feared and rejected because of what Hitler did. And yet God uses the worst evil to point to the greatest good. In fact, that is what He did with Stephanie.
Stephanie was born in Austria before the occupation. Soon after the occupation a government official warned her family to leave the country. They heeded that warning and left for England. After the war, Stephanie settled in Canada and raised a family there.
When I called her to introduce myself as a new worker in Toronto, she informed me, “I came to Jesus because of Hitler.” Imagine my astonishment! Here I was talking to a Jewish woman who had escaped the clutches of Hitler, and she was giving him credit for her salvation. I was shocked! I immediately asked her to explain, but she told me that it was a long story and that I should come visit her if I wanted to hear. Of course I could not resist.
As I sat with Stephanie, she told me of her upbringing and her family’s escape to England. It was there that she heard Hitler on the radio. She said that in this speech, Hitler declared his hatred for Jesus. Stephanie told me, “I thought to myself that if Hitler hated Jesus so much, then Jesus must be a wonderful fellow!” Shortly after this radio message someone gave Stephanie a gospel tract titled, “Jesus Loves You Too.” She was challenged to examine the Scriptures for herself and eventually she became a believer in Jesus. Many years later her husband and her foster daughter also came to faith.
At the end of our visit I asked Stephanie if she had any prayer requests. She smiled and said, “All of my prayers have been answered.”
Stephanie’s story reminds me that God can use anything or anyone to point the way to Jesus. He can use even the darkest hour to bring someone into His marvelous Light.
*In Jewish tradition, Haman, the villain of the Book of Esther, has come to symbolize the embodiment of evil (from whom God will deliver the Jewish people) in every generation. During the Nazi regime, many Jewish people referred to Hitler as Haman.