My grandfather, who is dying, is an atheist due to the fact that he
helped clean up concentration camps after WWII. He will spend his last
breath denying that there is a God, because of the remnants of the
horror he witnessed there. Hopefully, I am a woman of faith, but after
having spent a day at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, I
certainly can not blame him. His path of logic on this is clear to me.
Believe it or not, Auschwitz, and a few other death camps in Eastern Europe host public tours. It is not Disneyland. Their purpose in doing this is to remind, and to recover. These people want their recovery as a nation and as a family to be very public, with the hopes of preventing a repeat of so horrific an event. This camp is in Poland, and in letters of iron it reads at the entrance "Work Makes You Free" in German. Many of those working and hosting this camp are the children and grandchildren of prisoners there. They tell their stories in a way that only family members can, with honor, courage and a rage they surpress to get through the day.
There is a movement amongst skinheads to extinguish the memory of the holocaust. They propose the idea that it was exaggerated, and that it in actuality never happened. But in response to this demonic form of reasoning I need to say that I saw the shoes. Their shoes. There were just so many shoes. The shoes of men, women, and children who were on their way to be tortured and killed. I saw baby shoes. I saw the hopeful suitcases of families, with names and addresses on them no less, stacked unforgivably in piles that reached the ceilings--several times over. In order to achieve cooperation from these people, the Gestapo told families they were not being sent to die, that they were only being moved to a different ghetto, and to pack a suitcase of what they valued. The people obeyed, and for their obedience, their valuables and their lives were stolen.
Here are the statistics: 1.1 million people died in the Holocaust for being Jewish, non-violent, or handicapped. In order to accomplish that sort of death toll today, a person would have to fill Shea Stadium, kill every soul there mercilessly, and repeat it 18 more times. It would be like having 9/11 400 times. A targeted religious group in this camp were there for refusing to fight, and for putting God before country. One victim said his investigation went this way after his refusal to join the Wehrmacht, right after he was tortured:
"I was taken to the office of a Gestapo officer who specialized in (my religion). On the wardrobe there was a death's head. The Gestapo officer said to me:
--Will you give up? If not, this is what your head will look like.
--My conscience does not allow me to kill.
--We will cure your conscience."
(From the book 'Imprisoned for Their Faith' translated into English. Original title: 'Wiezini za wiare Swaiadkowie Jehowy w Kl Auschwitz.')
I've been to D.C.'s holocaust museum. Auschwitz is not the holocaust museum. The walls at that camp bleed the blood of innocent people. The ground there wails for the souls of humans that died like the worst of criminals, but whose crimes were the vague distinction of race, of limited ability, and love for God.
Still, if he'd listen to me, I'd tell my Grandfather this, there really is God. My grandfather may hate Him in his lack of understanding of God, but it doesn't change the facts. If I can spend the better part of the day crying for families I never met, how much more anguish God must experience at these types of atrocities. I would tell my Grandfather, that things like this happen with humans in charge of things they shouldn't be. To quote the from the bible book, Jeremiah, man has truly 'dominated man to his injury,' but that clearly can not go on forever without intervention.