1121) Who Owes Who What?

Auschwitz Concentration Camp


The following three quotes are from Jewish survivors of  Nazi concentration camps.  They are quoted by Reeve Robert Brenner in his book The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors, pages 102-3.


     “It never occurred to me to question God’s doing or lack of doings while I was an inmate of Auschwitz, although, of course, I understand others did…  I was no more or less religious because of what the Nazis did to us; and I believe my faith in God was not undermined in the least.  It never occurred to me to associate the calamity we were experiencing with God, to blame Him, or to believe in him less, or cease believing in Him at all because He didn’t come to our aid.  God doesn’t owe us that.  Or anything.  We owe our lives to Him.  If someone believes God is responsible for the death of six million because he somehow didn’t do something to save them, he’s got his thinking reversed.  We owe God our lives for the few or the many years we live, and we have the duty to worship Him and do as He commands us.  That’s what we are here on earth for, to be in God’s service, to do God’s bidding, to be God’s holy people.”


     “I know what kept me from going altogether mad in Sobibor (a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland).  What kept me from going under was my powerful and continuous faith in the nearness of God and in the existence of the hereafter.  It was my belief in God, and the fact that there was a belief in God held by others, that helped me retain my equilibrium and my sanity and some common sense as well.  My faith also kept my physical being from falling apart and, in fact, kept me from killing myself at once.  To me God is more than an idea, more than something that exists only in my head or my heart.  God must be physical and able to hear… I simply chose at one point that I would believe in Him, no matter what.  And that was that.  I don’t really know if that was true faith because of the way I went about it:  I refused then and continue to refuse now to summon God to a disposition.  If I went ahead and challenged God and my challenge was victorious, then I would be all alone.  I would have been utterly alone in the camps, and I could not have survived.  And I couldn’t survive today.”


     “Confined within the barbed wire of Auschwitz I understood to separate the wicked deeds of men from the workings of the entire universe.  The system of the world and the idea behind its functioning is (from) God.  I have always believed that…  And within the workings of the world, man can commit atrocities and murder, or refrain from atrocities and murder.  He is free to choose.  But the universe goes on regardless.  God is not a puppeteer pulling the strings and making man dance.”


Job 1:21b  —   (Job said), “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Job 41:11  —  (The Lord said), “Who has a claim against me that I must pay?  Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

Romans 11:35  —  Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?

Isaiah 29:16  —  You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!  Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”?  Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?

Habakkuk 1:2-4… 3:16-18 (the beginning, and then the end, of the book of Habakkuk)  —  How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.  Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.  The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted…    I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.  Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LordI will be joyful in God my Savior.


Lord, who knowest the deep places through which our lives must go:  help us when we enter them, to lift our hearts to thee, to be patient when we are afflicted, to be humble when we are in distress; and grant that the hope of thy eternal mercy may never fail us, and the consciousness of thy loving-kindness may never be clouded nor hidden from our eyes; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Service Book and Hymnal, Augsburg Publishing House, 1958.