In World War Two six million Jews were killed at over a thousand concentration camps. The more well-known were Dachau, Buchenwald, and Treblinka where eight hundred and fifty thousand souls perished. However the most notorious was Auschwitz where in less than five years the Nazis murdered over a million people.
Auschwitz survivor fifteen-year-old Elie Wiesel arrived in the late spring of nineteen forty-four with his family. He recalls the horror of his experience in a book appropriately titled “Night.” He chronicles his last night at home, the last night in the ghetto, the last night on the train, the death march to Buchenwald and his last night before liberation.
There is a haunting story that describes the hanging of a boy no more than twelve years old. After interrogation and torture, the Gestapo sentences the boy to death for not confessing to sabotaging the camp. He and two other men are led in chains to the gallows for execution in front of the thousands of prisoners. The verdict read, and all eyes now riveted on the young boy. Pale and nervous he bites his lips. The doomed men and boy mount their chairs, and their necks are fitted tightly in the nooses.
In the ominous silence, someone suddenly cries out! “Where is God? Where is He?”Silence again and the three chairs simultaneously kicked out from under them accomplish the evil deed. The silence again is broken with men weeping. Weisel writes, “Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “For God’s sake, where is God?
And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where is he? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…”
My Christian faith immediately identifies with these words. It points me to the living Christ where God hangs not from the gallows but the cross. In a hate-filled world where humanity kills with impunity, evil does not win. I will never understand what appears to be the absence of God, but faith declares God suffered and died the most horrific of deaths to reveal His love and hope for humanity.
Where is God? God is present where men and women share love and kindness instead of hate and violence. In recent tragedies, it is the first responders who race in to defend and save the defenseless. It is those who offer their bodies while shielding others. God is where His Spirit is allowed even hanging from a noose in a Nazi concentration camp or the victim of a mass shooting.