Weddings & Gas Chambers
Auschwitz might seem like a strange place to visit on a honeymoon trip, but that is exactly where the honeymoon journey my wife and I took through Eastern Europe brought us. We went from a wedding party to a gas chamber in about a week. Midway through our tour we stayed in Krakow, Poland for a couple days. From there, a day trip to Auschwitz was an optional excursion tourists could pay extra money to go on. I remember our tour guide explaining that, if it were all the same to everyone else, he’d just as soon skip the long drive out to that dismal place that featured such vivid reminders of human evil. He had been to the camp numerous times before on previous trips and didn’t like reliving the experience. But most of our tour group had never been to Auschwitz and were willing to pay the money so he reluctantly agreed to take us.
Connecting the Dots
When we got to the camp it didn’t take me long to understand our tour guide’s reluctance to experience the environment of the defunct concentration camp again. My interest in World War II history had driven me to read books and watch documentaries on Auschwitz over the years. But until that September day when I actually stood on the grounds of this place where hundreds of thousands of human beings were systematically murdered, mainly because of their God-given identity, I was struck as never before with the gravity of the horror of what had taken place there.
The Saddest Sight
The gas chambers were mausoleums that left me with a deep sense of the finiteness of my own humanity. The posts in the yard where they would hang prisoners by their wrists and torture them in sadistic ways made my blood cold. The gigantic rooms full from floor to ceiling with human hair that had been shorn from victim’s heads before they were herded like cattle into gas chambers for extermination was an undeniable statement of the disgusting nature of what the Nazi’s had done. But I think the saddest sight of all for me was seeing the tiny suitcases with the names and ages of small children etched onto them. My heart sunk as I realized these represented children, toddlers and infants who had been swept up and executed in the barbaric and demonic practices at Auschwitz.
Four Important Results of Honeymooning at Auschwitz
As gruesome as it was to go, I can honestly say I am glad we spent part of our honeymoon at Auschwitz. It impacted me for life and molded my perspective on some important issues. Here are a few of the ways it impacted me:
1. I am thankful when human government does its God-given job.
The Bible tells us that human government is God’s idea. His plan for human government is that it would make and uphold good laws. His plan is that they would execute justice according to biblically defined righteousness. When the allied forces joined together to defend the innocent and bring justice to bear upon the Nazi regime and their partners in crimes against humanity, they were fulfilling their biblical purpose. In our day, the governments and leaders of the world have a responsibility to confront the evil actions of groups like ISIS and others who are wreaking havoc upon humanity. Every world leader will give an account to God for what they do, or don’t do, to uphold biblical standards of righteousness in their spheres of authority and influence.
As we have now marked the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of the surviving prisoners at Auschwitz, I am thankful for leaders who are working toward similar liberation efforts on behalf of the suffering and brutalized in our day. As Christians, the call to action is primarily a call to prayer for leaders who are doing a good job at executing their God-given responsibilities, as well as the leaders who aren’t.
2. I am thankful that Jesus will bring all genocidal dictators and regimes to justice in this life or the next.
Some think Hitler got away with his crimes but he didn’t. Right now, Hitler is experiencing eternal, conscious torment under the justified wrath of God. Others are angry and confused at why groups like ISIS seem to elude judgment as they go about their satanic crusade. They wonder why God does not intervene.
These are valid and complicated questions. And I don’t presume to have all the answers. But one thing I would say for those struggling and confused over these kinds of questions is to remember not to confuse not yet with not ever. It is true that God has not yet put a stop to many of the evil operations being carried out by evil people. But rest assured, none of these groups will escape the judgment of God. Many of them will experience a foretaste of God’s judgment through the instrument of human authority in this life, only to spend an eternity paying for their sins in the next life. Others will escape being held accountable by human courts of authority in this life. But they will meet the King of kings and Lord of lords the moment they take their last vitriolic breath. Don’t confuse not yet with not ever. The blood of the innocent that cries out for justice will be satisfied at the Great White Throne Judgment of Jesus Christ.
3. I am burdened over the unborn.
Many who do not share my point of view on abortion will shake their head in annoyance at this point but it is valid nonetheless. Though America took up the cause of justice over the World War II Holocaust, the truth is, America has been carrying out a Holocaust of her own for decades. It makes no sense to express outrage over the systematic, clinically self-justified murder of the helpless victims of the Holocaust while supporting the massacre of the unborn through abortion. According to Planned Parenthood’s annual report, in 2012 alone they singlehandedly performed 327,166 abortion procedures as an organization. America is murdering hundreds of thousands of unborn children every year. In our celebration of the liberation of the helpless masses in the past and amidst our cries for justice on behalf of the innocent today, we must remember to plead the plight of the most innocent of all human beings- the unborn.
4. I am thankful that the gospel is true for murderers like me.
The truth is, I am a murderer. To be clear, I have never physically taken someone’s life. But in my murderous heart I have killed thousands. In my chest lives the heart of a Hitler and an ISIS commander. I used to fantasize about mailing bombs to capitalist leaders, believing their system was responsible for so much destruction in the world. I wanted to be part of violent revolution. To protect animals I wanted to kill people who eat meat. To protect the poor I wanted to kill the rich. The hatred that beat in my heart and angry blood that flowed through my veins were the same that resided beneath the skin of Adolph Hitler. Physical murder is born out of hatred that resides in the sin-corrupted human heart. This is why, biblically speaking, I am equally in need of the forgiveness of God as any genocidal dictator. Truly, the only difference between Hitler and me is that he let the desires of his heart get out in public and I have kept them in. As Jesus put it, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.’” (Matthew 5:21-22 NKJV)
What Auschwitz Taught Me about Me
The most troubling thing about visiting a place like Auschwitz is to come face-to-face with the kind of gruesome actions that result from the same sin that permeates my own heart and mind. The depths of human depravity illustrated in a phenomenon like the Holocaust scream of the universal need of divine forgiveness shared by mankind. I am so thankful that, though perfect and divine, Jesus took the trip from heaven to earth to save murderers-at-heart like me. That He lived a perfect life for me, never sinning in thought, desire or action. That He died in my place for my sins. That He rose from the grave. That He forgives me for my past sins, daily sins and future sins because I belong to Him through trust.
I hope the evil and depravity we are reminded of as we think upon the Holocaust or watch similar genocidal campaigns play out on the news will inspire thankfulness in believers for the gospel that saves them. And I pray that it will inspire urgency to share the grace of God with our fellow sinners.
All that to say, I am glad I spent my honeymoon at Auschwitz.