Today, I’m going to address a rather grim subject, but I feel that it is important to learn from this terrible time in our history, and to reflect on the hardships that people like us faced. In English class, we’ve been reading The Diary of Anne Frank, the actual diary, translated from the original Dutch, of a Jewish girl living during the Holocaust. The Holocaust, which literally means “great fire,” occurred from the early 1930’s all the way to 1945. Basically, it was a mass murder, or genocide, of Jews. At this time, an evil man named Adolf Hitler was the leader of Germany. He was a crazy, radical, completely insane guy who had frightening views of a “perfect Germany.” Anything and anyone who didn’t fit the image was not permitted. That included Jews, the mentally and physically disabled, Russian war prisoners, Gypsies, and others – but Jews were the primary focus. Hitler had a very specific view in his head of what a perfect Europe should look like, and Jews stood in the way. So, he thought in his insane mind, we’ll get rid of them. It was not enough to destroy all the Jews in Germany – once other European countries, including Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, and France, were seized by the Nazi Party during World War II, Hitler put in place his plot to get rid of all undesirable citizens living throughout Europe.
The world remembers the Holocaust as one of the most terrible times in history. People lived in constant fear that they or their loved ones would be caught and taken to a concentration camp. Anne Frank and her family hid for two years in a small series of rooms above an office building, hidden from the sight of the Nazi soldiers who patrolled the streets. For two years they remained in the small space referred to as the Secret Annex. They could not speak loudly, or do anything that caused noise, for that matter. They could not run around or play, and they never could go outside. For two years, the Frank family never stepped outside of their tiny hiding spot, the Secret Annex. They never breathed in fresh outside air or felt the warmth of the sun on their skin for two entire years. Can you even begin to imagine that? To us, it is inconceivable – yet if Anne or any member of her family had gone outside, they would have been putting their life at risk. If they were recognized and their hiding place discovered, they would have to leave immediately to go to a concentration camp.
If they were caught, well – there was pretty much no hope. They were almost certain to die. During the Holocaust, over 6 million Jews were killed in total. Though she had dazzling dreams and hopes for a future of exciting travels and fame, Anne Frank never reached her sixteenth birthday. She died in a concentration camp, as did her older sister, Margot, eighteen at the time, and her mother, Edith. Her father, Otto, was also taken to a camp but survived, and later published Anne’s diary recalling her unhappy two years in the Secret Annex. Anne’s diary is now one of the most printed books in the world. It gives readers a firsthand glimpse into the horrors of the time in history known as the Holocaust.
I know what you must be thinking. If God really loves us, how could He have let a thing like this happen?
God says Himself in the Bible:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.'” ~Jeremiah 29:11-12
This sounds like great news! Hooray – God loves us, and He has special plans for our future! Just like the song goes – He’s got the whole world in His hands. This is wonderful, because it lets us know that we don’t need to be afraid. It reminds us that God is in charge of everything, and that He has all our days all planned out for us. We don’t have to worry a thing about the details, as long as we keep on trusting in Him with our whole hearts. He’s got everything all taken care of. He’s also promising to answer our prayers. He’s promising that whenever we come to Him, He will be there with us.
If that’s all true – and we know it is, because it’s God’s Word – then where was God during the Holocaust? For that matter, why did the Holocaust happen and so many innocent people die? Many thousands of years before, God freed the Israelites from Pharaoh’s harsh rule. He led His people out of Egypt towards a new life of freedom and safety in the promised land (Exodus 14). Then why didn’t he rescue the Jews from the terrible persecution they faced – why didn’t He rescue them from the cruel hand of Hitler, the way He rescued the Israelites from Pharaoh? Why did He allow them to be murdered by the millions in such inhuman, unimaginable ways?
Well, that sort of goes with the eternally-pondered question, why do bad things happen? If God has the whole world in His hands, then how come there are terrible things like murder and sickness and evil people in the world?
Now, I don’t know the answer to that question, and I’m not going to pretend to. I don’t think that there is a single human being on this planet who can explain why bad things happen. We can propose reasons and make guesses, but we will never truly know until we see God with our own eyes someday. But for now, I have some thoughts on the matter, and I thought I would share them with you.
First of all, I think it’s important to remember that God is not the cause of bad things. God doesn’t make people sick. Germs do. He doesn’t cause people to feel pain. Our own words and actions do. The plans God has for us are good. But evil gets in the way. During the Holocaust, God didn’t “put” people in concentration camps and let them suffer. Hitler’s cruel hand and evil heart were the reason for the people’s misery. His dark schemes were the cause of the horrors the many innocent people targeted by the Nazis suffered. Not God. I think that’s the most important thing to think about.
Also, another thought. As positively awful as the Holocaust was, I do not believe that God ever truly left His people. I happen to believe that God always answers our prayers, though not always how we expect or want Him to. I can’t explain why He did not step in and shield the Jews from the Nazis’ evil deeds, rescue them the way He did the Israelites when they were being held captive in Egypt so long ago. Perhaps through death, He was rescuing people from the horrors they faced every day – by taking them home with Him, where they would finally be able to rest in peace. But, honestly, I don’t know. I am human, and I do not have all the answers. There is no one who does – except God Himself.
The final point I would like to make is that though it may not seem like it at times, God is always by our side. He promises us this in the Bible.
“Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. So don’t be afraid. The Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.” ~Joshua 1:9
He is always there, and He always answers our prayers, if not in the way we think He will. The truth is that bad things will happen to us in our lifetimes. They just will. Why; I don’t know. No one knows, nor will they ever know. But, hard as it is, we have to keep on putting every ounce of our faith and trust in the Lord. We have to believe that God knows what is best for us and that everything He does is for our sake. Of course, we as humans aren’t able to do this on our own, so we must ask Him for help trusting Him.
Reading The Diary of Anne Frank was an enlightening and eye-opening experience for me, and I think it will have ultimately served to strengthening my faith in God. If you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend it. I think it is important for everyone to read at some point or another in their faith journey. Though somewhat difficult at times, it was very moving and helped me to realize that though there will be things that we don’t know or are unsure of in life, we should turn to God in all ways and trust that He always knows what He is doing.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” ~Exodus 14:14
Be strong, everyone! 🙂
Your friend, Olivia