Q. God surely hated what the Nazis were doing. Why didn’t the skies darken?
A. Your question is reminiscent of the title of a book by Arno J Mayer, “Why did the Heavens not darken?” Published a dozen years ago, Mayer’s book examines the origins and development of the Final Solution and the circumstances within which it arose and occurred: movements in European economic and political history in which the victims of the Nazis were swept up as surrogates, with horrific consequences.
But your question raises a higher issue – the place of God in the scenario and whether there was an adequate Divine response to events of which, to say the very least, He could not have approved.
There are those who say we should ask humanity these questions, not God. They say that it was man, not God, who plotted the evil and carried it out for so long and with such momentum that European Jewry was almost exterminated and the whole world was shaken and almost shattered.
It is valid to accuse man of being inhuman, subhuman – use whatever word you choose. Man had the power to choose good and he chose evil. Man had the ability to produce wonders of science and technology, and he subverted them to disastrous ends.
At the same time it is also valid to accuse God, since ultimately everything emanates from Him. If man has an evil as well as a good inclination, surely the ultimate source is God. If man was made at all, surely it is God who was responsible.
One of the Holocaust theologians, Richard Rubenstein, says that the question echoes mockingly through the corridors of history and there is no answer.
Religious people who live by traditionalist views think we can ask a simple question about God and expect a simple, comforting answer about a loving Father who cares, but this is not how history works. The truth, according to Rubenstein, is that there is nothing but an unfeeling chaos. He quotes a German pastor, Dean Gruber, whose simplistic view is that if there is a God, then in some sense God sent Hitler.
Those who don’t like this stark, provocative opinion can only say, “How can that be possible?”
On the other hand, how can one shunt God off the stage? This would be an abdication.
We try to work through the theories that refuse to leave God out of the equation, but are still groping, at an early stage of the endeavour.
At this point poetry is a better help than prose. There is poetry in the following exchange in Elie Wiesel’s story, “A Man and His Little Sister”:
One more thing.
When you speak of your little sister leaving you like that, without a hug, without a goodbye, without wishing you a good journey, will you say that it was not her fault?
It was not your fault.
Then whose fault was it?
I shall find out. And I shall tell. I swear it to you, little sister. I shall.