Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where Was God During the Holocaust?

[British bomber over Hamburg]

That’s a fair question, and I can offer one answer. He was about 30,000 feet over Hamburg, Germany.

Between July 27 and August 3, 1943 the appropriately named Operation Gomorrah was launched against Hamburg, Germany. During those days and nights 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Hamburg, killing about 50,000 Germans and leaving one million homeless. It was the heaviest aerial assault in history and the most devastating ever non-nuclear bombing.

Most of the victims died during a three hour firestorm early in the morning of July 28. The huge concentration of incendiary bombs created a tornado of fire, a huge outdoor blast furnace, containing winds of up to 240 km/h (150 mph) and reaching temperatures of 800 °C (1,500 °F). It caused asphalt on the streets to burst into flame, cooked people to death in air-raid shelters, sucked pedestrians off the sidewalks like leaves into a vacuum cleaner and incinerated some eight square miles (21 km²) of the city.

While Hamburg became a hell on earth, 465 miles away there was another hell on earth: Auschwitz. The concentration camp was in full gear at that moment, working Jews to death, gassing them and burning them. The Warsaw ghetto had been completely liquidated just three months earlier. The Holocaust was at its height. While Germans were busy burning Jews in Poland, the British and Americans were busy burning Germans in Germany. This was a modern day version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Perhaps in the Hamburg firestorm there was a little payback for the Warsaw ghetto.

As the great rabbi, Hillel, once said (Pirkei Avot 2:7) when he a saw a human skull floating on the water “Because you drowned someone, you were drowned. And whoever drowned you, will be drowned as well.”

Every small child should be taught about examples like this of divine judgment. Everything has a consequence.


badrabbi said...

Your question was "Where was God during the Holocaust?"

You mentioned what the British and American were doing.

You mentioned what the Germans were doing.

What was God's role in this again?

jewish philosopher said...


1. I believe with perfect faith that G-d is the Creator and Ruler of all things. He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.

Based on this, when the Germans, American, British etc. do something, actually God is doing it.

Ethicist Watch said...

You don't question why God stepped in... oh... say... 12 million lives too late?

Rich said...

the problem with questions like this and like the one you asked previously about children suffering is that they prove nothing at all.

Maybe God was there as you describe and maybe God let the holocaust happen because of the actions of the Jews.

Or, Maybe there is no God and this evil happened because of some very sick individuals.

The believer can always find a reason that God did something that seems horrific at face value. And the non-believer will always claim that those reasons are apologetics.

badrabbi said...

"when the Germans, American, British etc. do something, actually God is doing it."

Let me get this straight: God (Germans) caused the holocaust, then God punished himself (through the allies)?

jewish philosopher said...

Skeptodox, I've got an answer for that.

Rich, did you have a chance to look at my post about reward and punishment in the afterlife?

bad, God created creatures (us) who have the ability to make a choice between good and evil. God then decides if we will be able to successfully carry out our plans. So He is always totally in control. And we are rewarded for good and punished for evil. The Germans wanted to kill Jews. The Jews deserved to die. The Germans are then punished for doing evil. Had they freely chosen to not harm anyone, Jews could have died as a result of a plague or a meteor strike or something else.

badrabbi said...

"The Jews deserved to die. The Germans are then punished for doing evil"

Forget for the moment your reprehensible comments;

If the Jews "derserved" to die, why then is the act of Germans considered evil?

jewish philosopher said...

It is forbidden to kill any human except in self defense or in order to carry out a judicial death penalty.

It's one of the Ten Commandments. Don't murder.

badrabbi said...

But you are saying that they "deserved to die". If they deserved it, then it is sanctioned in the court of law of God, right?

Once again, if the Jews deserved to die by God's reckoning, then the Germans merely carried out God's wishes. Why would they be considered evil?

jewish philosopher said...

It's true that a murderer is really doing nothing. That person would have died anyway at that moment by God's decree. However, humans are not allowed to carry out a death penalty except after the judgment of a properly constituted human court. Other killings are prohibited by the Ten Commandments and themselves are punishable by death.

badrabbi said...

I am not understanding you:

You say that the Jews "desrved to die". By that, you are saying that they did something bad and God passed a death penalty on them.

Now that they had a death penalty declared by God, the Germans come around and carry it out. In effect, they are doing God's work.

This is not so unusual, as when, for example, Pinhas killed the couple to placate God's wrath, or Moses, Joshua, or King David doing God's bidding.

So when God's bidding is being done, there is no sin committed, even if the act is murder. For example, Pinhas, or King David were not punished even though they killed people. This is so because these people that were murdered "deserved to die".

Samson the Gibbor similarly killed lots of Philistines. Again, he was on intimate terms with God, as presumably, the Philistines were not good people and deserved to die. Samson was not punished for his killings.

Now, again, I am asking: If the Jews were so evil that the death penalty was imposed on them in the heavans, why then the Germans would be considered evil for carrying out that penalty?

Shouldn't they be rewarded as the heroic zealots?

jewish philosopher said...

The Philistines were attacking Israel so counterattacking was self defense. Kings were allowed to impose a death penalty when they judged it to be necessary. So was the Jewish supreme court which existed in ancient times.

A Jew who has sex with a gentile woman may be lynched, however I have never heard of this being done except in that one case of Phineas and Zimri.

badrabbi said...

But you have not answered the basic question underlying my last comment.

badrabbi said...

LOL, by the way, don't tell me that Sampson killed Philistines in self defense. He once killed Phillistines because he lost a bet with his wife's family over bed covers and pillows!

On another occasion, he killed the Phillistines because he was mad that his wife was given away to someone else by her father after he refused her and brought her back to her father's house. He went on a mad fury and set Fox tails on fire so that the foxes would run and burn down farms!

Regarding King David, he arranged for a woman's husband to go to front lines of a battle and die so that he can satisfy his lust for his wife. Over and over David killed gratuitously. I will site you references if you wish, but you are a rabbi and I guess you already know.

You realize, of course, that we are digressing. The issue is whether carrying out a death penalty imposed by the heavans merits punishment.

If God says to you: "I want you to kill this person". You then go and do what god asked. Is it fair if God now says: "Thank you for doing my bidding. Now I am going to punish you!"?

jewish philosopher said...

How would you like to interpret the commandment "Don't murder"?

badrabbi said...

How do you interpret it, rabbi?

jewish philosopher said...

Taking the life of an innocent person. "innocent" meaning according to our, human eyes.

badrabbi said...

Do you, at least admit that the Jews in Germany were innocent?

jewish philosopher said...

Intermarriage, conversion to Christianity, atheism, unfortunately not really.

badrabbi said...

So they were guilty? Let's keep it simple. Were guilty?

jewish philosopher said...

Anyone who dies deserves death at that moment and is probably guilty of some sin.

However, there are rules about who people are allowed to kill.

Why is that so confusing?

badrabbi said...

OK, I understand. So, when the Romans imprisoned, tortured, and tore from limb to limb, Rabbi Akiva, the great rabbi "deserved death". Am I right?

jewish philosopher said...

Probably so.

After having lived to a great old age, becoming wealthy, being revered by millions, being married to exceptional women, having children, he met his end by dying heroically as a martyr rather than just having a heart attack.

I wish I deserved that.

badrabbi said...

JP, don't worry; as I see it, you deserve it.

badrabbi said...

23 comments later, I think I understand you, JP. Here is the summary of what you are saying:

1. Everyone who dies deserves it, because it is God’s way of punishment.
2. If a death seems unjust, it is not; God knows what he is doing
3. If one kills another, the one is actually doing God’s bidding. A killer is actually always acting on God’s behest

4. Nevertheless, a killer will be punished for what he has done, even if sanctioned by God.

5. If a Jewish sage dies, this death is heroic and worthy of envy. Even if tortured to death, it is in fact a worthy way to go!

Now, my interpretation:

1. If everyone who dies deserves to die, then there your go. Why comment on the Jews of Holocaust? Why not simply declare that all who die deserved their fait, and move on. Why isolate the World war II Jews for comment?

2. If we start doing what JP is wanting us to do, which is to blame a cancerous child’s previous lives, or worse, to blame the sick child’s parents for being wicked, then I want no part of it. I do not think that this is not Jewish philosophy at all, but if it is, I want no part of it. What is more, I will kick the ass of anyone who suggests this to the child or his parents should these comments be made in my presence.
3. I find it very hard to understand why God wants someone to die and when someone comes around and does what god wants, that he should nevertheless be punished for it. It makes no sense no matter how many times you repeat it.

jewish philosopher said...

You see, bad, I think what you are doing is typical of atheists.

You are basically stating: Bad things happen. Of course, we all agree on that. Now if the Torah is saying that God would not let bad things happen, then obviously God does not exist. If, however, the Torah is saying that God causes bad things to happen [it does], then I refuse to worship such a god.

Hey, that’s your choice. It’s equivalent to someone saying to the district attorney “If you’re going to tell me that evading taxes is illegal, I refuse to recognize this government”. Recognize whatever you want. How far will that get you? Federal prison.

badrabbi said...

Actually, your analogy is apt.

1. When the district attorney arrests and imprisons innocent people, then I would in fact tell her that she is out of order and I would fight her authority.

2. It is as if you are saying the government asks IRS to arrest tax breaker, but then for doing so, the IRS employees would be arrested themselves. This is point #3 of my previous comment.

jewish philosopher said...

I think you're missing a key point. No one ever commanded the Germans to kill. Therefore the killing was murder.

Let's say you would be a prophet. Let's say you would know that John Doe is going to die at 10:25 next Monday morning for the sin of having beaten his wife two years ago, which he never repented. Let's say you decide you need a little exercise so you go to the hardware store, buy an ax and chop John Doe to death at exactly 10:25 next Monday morning. You know, and you are right, that he would have died at that moment anyway - from a heart attack, a bus hitting him, whatever. You are still a murderer, in the eyes of man and God. You will now be punished for this, because God did not COMMAND you to do it.

This is exactly what Hillel said [I included this for a reason] “Because you drowned someone, you were drowned. And whoever drowned you, will be drowned as well.”

Cameron said...

I think Badrabbi has your move mostly figured out. Typically atheists suggest;

- Bad things happen to good people, and since God makes everything happen, therefore God is either bad, or (more likely and more palatably) there simply is no God.

But JP suggests instead;

- bad things happen to good people because God wills it. Since God cannot by definition be bad, these bad things must actually somehow be good.

So don't sweat the cancer of small children, they deserved it. Don't worry about how or why they deserved it, cuz it could be a past life, the sins of the father, whatever, and there is no way to tell if your kid is cancerous because you have offended God personally, or because in a past life they were the Marquis deSade.

Don't sweat the holocaust, they deserved it. Why? Who knows/doesn't matter. Once you have JP's faith that God is good, even the most impossibly evil act is actually good.

No act of evil against you is actually an act of evil. So thank the man who robs you, who rapes your wife, or who kills your children, he is actually doing you a favour.

After-all, you must have deserved it, and evil is then just God's way of talking to you.

That isn't morality, that's victim-hood and appeasement warped into a moral philosophy. It's the perversion of concepts like justice and goodness to serve purely religious and theological ends.

It's illogical, and it's morally wrong.

jewish philosopher said...

We, Jews, simply perceive of God as having extremely high moral and ethical standards and of being perfectly capable of going ballistic if those standards are not met. Read the Bible for details.

I admit this is not what most people want to hear. Which explains why only about .03% of all humans are Orthodox Jews. However because this belief is unpopular does not make it false. How many people believed the world was round a few hundred years ago?

badrabbi said...

"I think you're missing a key point. No one ever commanded the Germans to kill."

Got it. But just to clarify, are you saying that it was the Germans, without being commanded, who did the deed?

jewish philosopher said...

I think most historians agree that the Holocaust was organized and managed primarily by Germans, although Chancellor Hitler himself was actually Austrian.

badrabbi said...

Ok, Thanks. What you are saying, and I clarified it with you twice to make sure, is that the Holocaust was perpetuated by Germans. Equally, the ally response was also perpetuated by the allies.

Now, if you wiil, please go back and read the first comment on this blog...

jewish philosopher said...

God allowed the Germans to do something evil because the Jews deserved it. Just like God would allow you to ax John Doe because death had been decreed on him.

hen3ry said...

"God created creatures (us) who have the ability to make a choice between good and evil. God then decides if we will be able to successfully carry out our plans. So He is always totally in control."

This confuses me. What you appear to be saying here is that anything that ever happens must be sanctioned by God, and is therefore good. In which case, why should we punish murderers? After all, their actions were sanctioned by God, and are therefore good.

jewish philosopher said...

The murderer is punished because he chose to murder. Murder is forbidden.

hen3ry said...

But how can he murder if "God then decides if we will be able to successfully carry out our plans"?

Surely, he can make a plan to murder, but god then allowes him to successfully carry out that plan?

jewish philosopher said...

Right. If the victim deserves to die, the murderer will be successful. And he will punished, because he is a murderer.

hen3ry said...

But, if the victim can do nothing that is not allowed by god, what can he do that deserves death?

jewish philosopher said...

For example, he can choose to drive on the Sabbath, God may allow him to do it and he will deserve a death penalty.

Joebaum said...

The Germans had no business kiling the Jews its not their responsebility its between them and god, they did it out of sadism, for that they deserve to be punished.

Physiocrat said...

This whole thread is disgusting. Thousand of Hamburg residents died in the attack who were anti Hitler and were just caught up in the madness, for that is what the whole thing was, and if the Germans had not been treated so vindictively in 1919 there would probably have been no Hitler and no Holocaust.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm sorry, call me what you like, however I am personally upset that far more Germans weren't killed.

Anonymous said...

God was asleep at the switch.

jewish philosopher said...

No, He was operating all the switches.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the worst, most nihilistic and sick things I've ever read on the internet. That is pretty amazing if you think about it.

"I'm sorry, call me what you like, however I am personally upset that far more Germans weren't killed."

Why? According to you they were just carrying out God's punishment.

I call you a kapo and a Nazi.

I for one am "personally upset" (what a light term to use) that so many people died in the death camps and that they existed in the first place.

Who do you believe suffered more? The Germans or the Jews? You have to admit it was the Jews. There was no justice in this.

If that's the God you worship, he belongs in a gas chamber. YHWH belongs in a gas chamber.

jewish philosopher said...

"Why? According to you they were just carrying out God's punishment."

It works like this.

Everything which happens is controlled by God.

1. I believe with perfect faith that G-d is the Creator and Ruler of all things. He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.

However, certain things are prohibited by God, even to gentiles.

If a certain person is destined to die anyway, and a certain wicked person wishes to kill him, God may allow that wicked person to go ahead and do it and then He will punish that wicked person.

"He [Hillel] further saw a skull floating on the water. He said to it: 'Because you drowned you were drowned, and in the end those who drowned you will be drowned.'"

"There was no justice in this."

Everything is just and I explain the Holocaust here.

Anonymous said...

Though I do not particularly agree with your assessment, it may be because of a lack of thorough philosophical understanding. I will expand upon my understandings of Judeo-Christian philosophical conceptions of the nature of God to try and understand your position better. I have some reservations about a fatalist attitude towards human action and the course of history - the contradictory nature of free will vs. predestination, if you will. But I enjoyed reading a Jewish perspective on the matter. So thank you.

I found your page from Googling about the crisis of faith experienced by Jews during the holocaust. Have you ever heard of this film? It's free to watch on YouTube.

jewish philosopher said...

It sounds familiar however I haven't seen it yet.

jewish philosopher said...

I have another post concerning suffering.

Anonymous said...

I still have the same question. Where was God?

jewish philosopher said...

Where He always is. Everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I am a different Anonymous however as Matt said I thoroughly enjoyed your view point of the Holocaust and I also understand other people's viewpoints. I needed to do an essay about this and I am glad I read this. So thank you.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you are both wrong. Perhaps God was there in the hearts of people that were helping to hide the Jewish people. Perhaps he was in the hearts of the leaders of other counties. People are the ones that make choices. Good and evil ones, and sometimes those choices affect others and sometimes they bring life to a close even when they weren't supposed to come to a close. God is good and loving and but we were born with choice and sin gets in the way of having perfect lives. Even if you don't believe that the Messiah has come, you believe he is yet to come, so you know the reasons why he needs to do so. If that's the case then he comes to lift our sin from us, until that time or for some of us that already believe the Messiah has come then we believe that our sins are forgiven and we choose good from evil because of our love for God.