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A Search for Meaning in the Tragedy of the Holocaust


A story is told about a Jewish man who was taken by the Nazis and went through the camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz and finally Dachau. He had managed to endure every abuse his persecutors gave out. But by the time he was relocated to Dachau at the end of the war, he had given up on living. He refused to even eat the meager amount of food given in the camp. His world had collapsed around him.

But in the midst of his despair, he heard that there was a man in the camp who was a captured Jewish parachutist from Palestine. This man was one of a select group of Jewish men and women from British-controlled Palestine who served in the British army during the Second World War. These volunteers flew behind enemy lines in an attempt to rescue Jews and bring them to the land of their forefathers. Unfortunately this parachutist had been captured and sent to Dachau.

When the man who had given up on living learned that there was someone who was willing to risk his life to save others, he regained his will to live and ultimately survived. The parachutist, however, tragically perished in the camp. In a way, he gave his life but another person lived who believed in his mission.

The Holocaust is a calamity without equal. It has led to deep questions of faith and about living in its long shadow. One of the more important questions asks whether any good can come out of the death of a community or an individual? Some writers have stated that without the tragedy of the Holocaust, there would have been no modern nation of Israel. Others have reckoned that result too high of a price to pay. And so the debate carries on.

There are no easy answers to such questions. But the above story does illustrate a basic principle of life—sometimes when people suffer and make great personal sacrifices, it leads to a better situation in life for other people. For persons like the Jewish parachutist, it is a legacy of honor.

Another story is told about a Jewish man who cared deeply for his people. He, too, had a mission to rescue others from their plight. And when he gave his life so that others might live, Jewish people believed in his mission and, in response, received great benefits.

Like his kinsmen in the Holocaust, he was intentionally humiliated and considered not worthy of living. He suffered in innocence at the hands of a nation that had subjected the Jewish people to tyranny.

This was the life story of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth. He was the promised Messiah of Israel. And in an act of great love, he willingly gave his life as an atonement for the sins of all people, just as the prophet Isaiah had foretold long before (Is. 53:12). Now we are promised that everyone who believes in him today will not perish forever but will receive everlasting life (Jn. 11:25).

Among the survivors of the Holocaust are many Jewish men and women who have come to believe in Yeshua. Many other Messianic Jewish believers were counted among the victims. Theirs is a faith that hopes in a future day of vindication. For as the prophet Daniel declared in the Hebrew Scriptures, a day is coming when

"Everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:1,2).

Daniel understood that all humanity will experience a future day of resurrection. Here in the writings of this Jewish prophet is a glimpse of the life to come. This much is certain: those persons who persecuted the Jewish people to the point of genocide will face the "shame and everlasting contempt" of justice wrought by the Almighty King of the Universe.  On the other hand, those who believe in His Anointed One, will share in the sure promise of "everlasting life."

How we respond to the Holocaust is a personal matter. Likewise, how we respond to God is also very personal. We, too, stand accountable for our own actions and how we respond to God's Word. It has been said:

I prayed for justice. Then I remembered myself. And I prayed for mercy.

It's all about making choices. Search the Scriptures and seek God's message of redemption for all humanity. For in them you will discover the blessing of believing in the one who "was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).


Dr. Galen Peterson
© 2002 American Remnant Missio