What I Learned From Auschwitz

Jonathan Blumen compiled The Auschwitz Alphabet
Alphabet represents my own selection (macabre word) of the most significant facets of life and death in Auschwitz. In twenty-six "slices", I have attempted to illustrate the entire human landscape of the camp: Who killed and who died? How did people survive? What happened to the language they spoke? What rules governed the perpetrators and their victims? Where was God?
What I learned from Aushwitz: There is no God

The most important lesson one can learn from Auschwitz is that God does not exist. Occam's Razor tells us not to search for a complicated explanation when a simple one is available. Ever since Auschwitz, theologians have had to go through major contortions to hold onto an image of God. There are only two possibilities: either God caused (or at least permitted) the destruction of the Jews, the Gypsies and the other victims, or God does not care. The first approach is unacceptable for two reasons. It means that entire groups of people may be indicted based on race or other identity, which is contrary to everything I believe. And it makes God out to be a mass murderer. On the other hand, if God does not care, why believe in Him? An uncaring God is either a cruel and negligent one, or, even worse, a God who is unaware of humans and their plight. This latter--the God of Spinoza and of Freud's psychotic Dr. Schreber--is really just a metaphysical formulation bearing little or no relationship to the popular idea of God as a being who intervenes in human history.

Although there are only two possibilities, there is a third approach to retaining belief in God: shut up and stop asking questions. Interestingly, this is the message not of God but the devil to the knight in Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Probably, the majority of those who believe in a Jewish or Christian God today-- at least I hope it is the majority--simply do not confront God with the question of how He could let Auschwitz happen. But this approach is not acceptable to those who believe that there is no area off-limits to human questioning.

By far the simplest explanation for Auschwitz is that there is no God to intervene in human affairs. No deity exists to care what we do to each other. All compassion and all hatred in the human universe is ours. We are on our own.

5 Responses to “What I Learned From Auschwitz”

  1. # Blogger lone star

    alright this is my 4th comment here today.... Im not a loser!! Im not!! but any way I was just looking at this again and ....think what disturbs me most is..."theologians" can only come up with 2 theories to ponder??? God caused it or doesnt care???

  2. # Blogger jonz

    Well there is a third approach ;)  

  3. # Blogger lone star

    they are wrong again ... cause a fouth approach would be for "theologians" to actually start practicing "theology" - which is... The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions.
    and then they might learn who and what "God" is. my answer to the question would be - god is inside US so "he" cared very much what happened to the holacoust victims and made his presence know through the brave men and women fighting against the nazis.... the history of the entire war is full of miricles, saviors and heros.
    but hey I get my teaching from Jesus. I dont know where the rest of the "theologians" get theirs.
    Guess jews could say "god" was in Moses...  

  4. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I wonder what the North Korean escapees learned about atheism when they escaped the worst gulag of our times, hmm? That its, um, great, no doubt. 'No religion too'!  

  5. # Blogger jonz

    Well I'm sure they thought "Oh, how wondrous god is! In your infinite wisdom, allowing my comrades to perish, but sparing me with just a bit of torture!!"

    I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here...  

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