“Those moments which murdered my God…”
On that September morning, I walked the Krakow cobblestone streets in near-freezing air at 5:30 a.m. to grab a bus to Auschwitz. I had pulled an all-nighter but not by choice.
The reality of visiting that infamous “there.”
I don’t remember the ride but I arrived. The tour guide, a blonde woman in her 50s — speaking perfect English with a thick Polish accent, languid in reciting the blisteringly-morbid data to a dozen tourists who wouldn’t dare utter a word.
I had read the books, watched the documentaries, ingested every frame of Schindler’s list, countless times. But there is something about a place.
As the helpless prisoners arrived, young children, the elderly, and those with illnesses were separated. A guard would point to the left or the right. One direction meant to the “showers,” which pumped deadly Zyklon-B poison gas into the chambers.
I kept my mouth open for hours — a dropped jaw allowed me to cry and breathe, simultaneously, as my nose was plugged. There was something about the ground: the dirt, the cement, the grass, whether inside the gas chamber, along with one of the roads, in the disgusting barracks — “they walked in this ground.”
I should have remembered but I hadn’t — these camps had but one purpose: extermination. If you weren’t shot or gassed it was only so you could work…to keep the killing factory functioning.
The stories of torture, disease, filth, “surgeries” — you can google those if you’d like. I don’t have the stomach right now to repeat them.
A wave of anger — one that I had never felt before, and haven’t felt since — began to arise. The Final Solution — the command to exterminate — was announced on January 20, 1942. Why this anger? Because for nearly 20 years, millions sat silent. Christians. Pastors. Everyday citizens. Sat silent as Hitler attacked the free press, institutions of power, foreigners. Dark-skinned people (he ended up murdering millions of them) — all in the name of making German great.
But Bonhoeffer did. The Lutheran pastor was called “divisive” and “political” for standing against the hatred. He paid the ultimate price at Flossenburg.
The words of Elie Wiesel rang through my crazed mind:
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
Estimates suggest that Nazis murdered 85% of the people sent to Auschwitz. Of the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million died
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
Today is Holocaust Remembrance day — I will never forget, either. I hope none of us do.
Surrender. You can only do so much.
Sometimes, you’ve gotta let go.
Some things you can change. Some things you can’t.
You can pray.
You can act.
You can raise awareness.
But sometimes, surrender. Because you can only do so much.
The world is full of suffering. Insidious kinds of suffering. I wrote about suffering here.
Atheists use suffering as an argument against the existence of God.
Their logic goes like this:
- If God exists, he must be good
- If he is good, he would not allow needless suffering (like children being locked up in homes with their abusers)
- The world is full of needless suffering
- Therefore, God does not exist
Philosophers call this puzzle the Problem of Evil: Technically, The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains undesirable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable to believe in the existence of God.
Some suffering is from natural evil — disease and disasters.
The other is due to human evil — things people do to others, bringing physical and emotional (or both) pain.
(As an aside, I’m reading The Book Thief for the first time.)
Humans can’t do anything to prevent natural evil; we can’t prevent earthquakes or tsunamis or tornadoes.
But human evil — physical abuse and rape and verbal abuse and greed — can be stopped.
People have choices. (Though I do hold to a libertarian view of free will, I still, often, find myself afraid that most of our actions are done without decision — we are in autopilot more than we want to believe.)
Even so, human evil is prevalent. (You and I have played our own parts in it.)
When my children were young, one of our prayers before bedtime was the Serenity Prayer. We’d pray it after the Our Father, Glory Be, then Anglican prayer of repentance. Anyway, it’s not really Christian, but it’s a good one: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Acceptance and surrender are the same thing.
The good news is that human evil can be curbed through education, intervention, legal sanction, attending 12-Step meetings.
But even then, you can only do so much. Evil still happens.
Children are still hurting.
Girls Not Brides. Another international organization working to protect children.
It’s the 17th of May, National Foster Care Awareness Month. Because of the horrors I was hearing about daily in my work, I committed to writing every day, to raise awareness.
It became too hard.
I missed a few days.
Fought off some depression.
And I don’t want to be a downer to my friends on social media.
But I can’t not speak out.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: COVID-19 affects all of us. But, COVID-19 hurts children most. The fallout amongst the health experts I speak to weekly in Washington DC is unknown. I wake up daily to news articles on spikes in calls to rape hotlines, child deaths, you name it.
It will take years to recover.
Never in the history of U.S social services have children been kept from mandated reports. Never in the history of social services have children been locked-up with their abusers, with no end in sight.
According to Girls Not Brides: “We know that girls and women – particularly amongst the poorest and socially marginalised groups – will likely be most affected by the pandemic.”
It’s always the weakest and most vulnerable that get hit hardest. The people Jesus stood for, advocated for, died for.
COVID-19 hurts children most
Seeing countless people protest because they can’t go to the beach or party at their favorite bar or who believe guilds of tens of thousands of our finest medical doctors and researchers (in the (WHO, CDC, NIH) are conspiring…we live in a bizarre world and ignorance is our biggest killer.
United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article Four: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”
For the children,
We can’t show the faces. But those are the names of real children.
I recently asked RFK chapter Directors a question on our Facebook closed group page. “Will you send the first name of a child your chapter has served that, you believe, needs prayer right now?”
Within minutes, dozens of names poured in — names of children from all around the country. Too many names to list.
Children in foster care.
Names, not faces.
We can’t show faces.
The children we serve are usually wards of the state. We work with state agencies.
At all costs, we protect the identity of these vulnerable children.
Pray for them. Today is National Day of Prayer. Pray for them today, and tomorrow, and the day after…
Because of COVID-19, precious children do not have the normal lifelines to the outside world; many are locked-up with their abusers right now.
But there is hope — our volunteers around the country and world are finding innovate ways to make them smile, care for them, give them love and hope.
We can’t show the faces.
I am a Christian. But I don’t care which religion you belong to right now: pray for them.
Prayer matters. Jesus prayed.
It breaks God’s heart that these children, more than ever, and in ways like never before, suffer.
If you can do nothing else…
Pray for them.
We can’t show the faces.
Paul Martín, President, RFK