AU in Krakow

6 American University students, 1 coordinator, and 1 professor--in Poland. This should get interesting.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Was God in Auschwitz?

After leaving Auschwitz and waiting to go to Birkenau Jenny asked me something quite interesting; she said: “did you feel like there is no God there?” It is interesting because since WWII people have been asking where God was during the Jews’ extermination, more than that, many were questioning His existence because how could God allow something like Holocaust to happen? Well, by no means I feel knowledgeable enough to answer his question, but I have few modest ideas about it.
First, I believe that the answer to the above question will depend on a very notion of how we see God. Those that believe that God actively participates in our lives and sometimes intervenes are more than likely to conclude that God, indeed, was absent in the death camps. However, those who are stronger believers in human free will and see God as more of a observer, who one day will judge all of us can better experience God’s presence during the Holocaust.
Ellie Wiesel (spelling?) is a good example of the first group. After surviving Auschwitz he questions his faith and humanity. He cannot comprehend the fact God could allow for such atrocities, therefore, He must not exist. Mira Ryczke-Kimmelman, also an Auschwitz survivor, has a quite opposite outlook on things. In her memoirs she claims that faith was one of the few things that helped her through the war and the camp. She wrote about how sadden and disappointed in people God must have been and she believed that they will be punished when the time comes. Same place, similar experiences, yet absolutely different attitudes.
Of course, I won’t and don’t want to answer if God was present in Auschwitz. This question is way too complicated for me to handle. However, I think it motivates one to think about his/her individual faith. There have been way too many horrible events in our history, events that we can contribute to men and men only. It is easy to question God? Because he is this sort of safety net, which is supposed to protect us when needed. If it doesn’t protect us we panic. What about our choices? What about our free will? Everyone appears to want to have a freedom of choice and will, but if these choices are evil we wish they were controlled or stopped by the higher power. It doesn’t work that way, we cannot have it all. Just because God cannot save us from our own mistakes doesn’t mean He is not there.

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