Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Faced with Evil: What would I have done in Nazi Germany?

I’ve often wondered what I would have done if I’d been alive during World War II and lived in Europe. Would I have known about the atrocities committed at the approximately 1,200 Nazi concentration camps? If I’d known, would I have done something?

Or, would the public atrocities have been sufficient to rise my sense of injustice? How many yellow stars would have had to walk down the street in front of me before I would have sympathized with the disgrace? How many friends would have had to board a train for mandatory encampment at a labor facility? When would I have realized those labor facilities were actually extermination camps?

Would I have been a Corrie ten Boom who defied the law to save Jewish lives before her own imprisonment? Would I be able to teach a message of grace and forgiveness after enduring Ravensbrueck Concentration Camp?

Or would I have lived in denial and fear? Would I have turned the other way? I don’t know.

I do know this…

I’ve read Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Hiding Place, and The Auschwitz Escape and thought “Never Again.”

I’ve watched Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Defiance, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and thought “Never Again.”

I’ve walked the halls of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem and thought “Never Again.”

I’ve stood before the ovens of Dachau concentration camp and thought “Never Again.”

And yet, I still don’t know what I would do if I lived then and there. You see, it’s much easier to care – to feel a heart tug of compassion – than it is to take action. It’s easier to think grandiose thoughts after the tragedy than it is to predict brave actions before.

Why all this pondering? A few reasons…

First, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom Ha’Shoah, a day to remember what happened, teach of it to a new generation, and pray history doesn’t repeat itself. After all, as Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Second, I finished reading “The Auschwitz Escape” by Joel Rosenberg a few days ago. Although historical fiction, Joel based the story on the real-life actions of four men who dared to risk their lives, not only to save countless individuals but also to expose the Nazi’ atrocities to a world who would have rather stayed oblivious. The well-written and well-researched novel forces us to consider questions such as “What would I have done?”

Third, and most importantly, I’m pondering these questions because it may happen here and now; the outcome may be worse than it was then and there. I consider the question, “What would I have done?” because I may be forced to answer it by my actions.

Christian and Jewish persecution is increasing at an incredible rate. Headlines of horror come out of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Libya, and many more. It’s easy to ignore them because it’s the Middle East and northern Africa – isn’t something bad always going on over there?

But evil – left unchecked – spreads.

Headlines now come out of places like France and England… and the United States.

What I do Know

Like I said, I don’t know what I would have done if I lived in Europe during World War II. I also don’t know what I’ll do to help those suffering in the hands of evil today.

I do know one thing, however. I know God’s Word promises a lot of good things in the midst of evil persecution. I know it not by my own experience; I’ve never suffered persecution. I know it because God’s Word says it and His promises are a truer source of information than any personal anecdote could ever be.

I know that in the midst of persecution, God’s Word promises…
  • the advancement of His message (Philippians 1:12, 18)
  • encouragement and confidence (Philippians 1:14)
  • a reason to rejoice (Philippians 1:18, James 1:2)
  • the ability to endure (2 Corinthians 1:6)
  • comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
  • the ability to trust Him through prayer (2 Corinthians 1:9-11)
  • growth and maturity (James 1:4)

I wrote more in-depth about these in Everything We Need. They don’t seem logical or possible but they are our reality. What a hope in an unknown future! After all, as Corrie herself once said, "I've experienced His Presence in the deepest, darkest hell that men can create... I have tested the promises of the Bible, and believe me, you can count on them."

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