Walking Into Auschwitz

Most people have heard of Auschwitz—sometimes known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, the name of one of Auschwitz’s compounds. Located in Poland, Auschwitz was first used in 1940 and lastly in 1945, yet within that short span of time approximately 1.1 MILLION people died there. Of that number nearly 1 million were Jews, the Nazi’s biggest target.

Yet Auschwitz, while being the largest extermination camp used during the Holocaust, was only one of five major camps in use; the others being Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Belzec. Still, there is a reason Auschwitz is so well remembered, and the 1.1 million people who died there is just the beginning…

Arbeit Macht Frei

Upon reaching the camp you’d walk under the sign reading, Arbeit Macht Frei, which translated means Work Makes You Free. The majority of those who passed under this sign would immediately walk to their deaths in the gas chambers, while those ‘lucky’ enough to be chosen ‘fit’ would be taken to one of Auschwitz’s additional camps for use as slave labor until they died of ‘natural’ causes, or were shot.

For those bold enough to attempt to escape their recapture would not only mean punishment but cruel humiliation; such as being chained under a sign reading, Hurray! We’re back! These signs are the last thing many captives would read.

(Source; Artwork by an Auschwitz survivor, drawn from memory; two attempted escapees chained together under a sign reading, Hurray! We’re Back!)
(Source; Half a barracks filled with suitcases of those who’d perish after writing their names—included is one of an orphan indicated by the word, Waisenkind.)

The Lies Told and Belongings that Remain

Yet, before passing under the camp gate captives were told lies to pacify them. While all lies involved reassuring them they were safe, another was convincing them that their belongings would be returned.

Captives were told to mark their suitcases to later identify them—a lie to further the belief that they weren’t about to be killed.

Still, the most poignant visual reminder of the millions who entered Auschwitz is their shoes. For many, aside from the clothes on their backs, these were the only items they were able to take… and in the end, they couldn’t even retain those. Their shoes give us a vivid picture of the vast range of ages and classes whose lives ended in this evil place, and they serve as a reminder to never forget.

Seeing firsthand photos taken during the time of Auschwitz, and the days that followed its end, are perhaps the most unfathomable of all—allowing a glimpse into that horrific moment in time.

The most heartbreaking sight of all… is that of the shoes of the children who were victims of Auschwitz. These shoes, these photos, are sometimes all that survives of their legacy—a heartbreaking realization that no one was safe, and that few remember them.

(Source; Photo taken at Auschwitz-Birkenau; shoes and clothing stolen from those at Auschwitz—all ages and genders.)
(Photo of shoes taken from captives.)
(Photo of children’s booties taken from victims of Auschwitz.)

Where is the hope?

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” —Isaiah 59:1

Within the years of the Holocaust, you can imagine the people of God crying out, wondering why these things were happening; asking where God was in all of this. Yet, it is important to remember, it wasn’t God who created the Holocaust—it was man. God gave His grafted-in—Gentiles—the chance to act, the chance to cherish His firstborn—the Jews—but many would not, turning a blind eye to them. Some believed that their Jewish brothers and sisters were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus… still, God wouldn’t let His people suffer indefinitely. He heard their cries and put an end to Hitler and his barbaric reign of terror.

Why didn’t God act sooner?

Sometimes God’s timing can be a great mystery to mankind. Because we can’t always see His entire plan, it’s important to realize that even though God’s timing is rarely our preferred timing, He ALWAYS acts… and in the grand scheme of eternity, it’s always for the benefit of His children—even if there are times of suffering or weeping.

“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.”—Psalm 31:14-15

Did God see the Holocaust as punishment?

The simple answer is no because God LOVES His people! He loves His people so much that He gave His creation—mankind—free will, and it’s because of this free will that we are able to choose how we act. Though not without consequences.

Again, God gives each and every one of us free will. With this freedom we’re given the ability to love God without boundaries… or to dishonor and disown Him if we so choose. Without choosing to freely and wholly love God, the result can be chaos, discord, and hate—all of which are rooted in fear.

Fear is the opposite of love. It says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” If we know God’s perfect love and love Him unconditionally in return, we cannot know fear! This is a concept foreign to our carnal minds—after all, if we don’t fear wouldn’t we just ‘fearlessly’ walk in front of a bus? The answer is God.

If we’re in tune with God, the concept of fear is foreign, not the lack of it.

The Holocaust ‘prospered’ because of fear. It grew because of fear. It was initiated subtly; being different, and not fitting in, triggered a fear that certain people groups were dangerous. They were classified as ‘other’ and given a stigma; a fear. People who didn’t fit the pattern of ‘society’ were infectious, dangerous, deceptive, exploitive, aggressive… and on and on went the descriptions of fear.

Fear is the opposite of God, the opposite of His love, and it was because of fear that horrors beyond measure were birthed.

What is the solution?

Sadly there is no going back in time to stop what occurred during the Holocaust. However, there are ways to prevent another from occurring. By bringing light and LOVE to the darkness we can eradicate the disease known as fear. We can bring God’s goodness into this world and show that perfect love does cast out fear. Without fear there is love, and with love nothing is impossible! For God is love.

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” —1 John 4:8

The Holocaust had numerous victims, but it also had many survivors. By showing God’s love to these survivors, we can make a difference—not changing the past, but changing the present and more importantly, the future!

Let us speak with acts of love to God’s children. Let us show the survivors of the Holocaust that they are not forgotten! By donating via Curt Landry Ministries, YOU can provide survivors with hot meals, personal care items, and even things that many of us take for granted, such as working plumbing. Your donation serves as a physical reminder of God’s love to those who have suffered more than we can imagine—who have survived against the odds in places such as Auschwitz. Let us be light; let us love!

Image Sources:

http://www.ww2incolor.com/dramatic/arbeit_macht_frei.html (Photo 1)

https://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Tour/Auschwitz1/Auschwitz11.html (Photos 2, 3, and 4)

http://www.vhf.org/shoe-collection-no-other-now-display-us-holocaust-memorial-museum (Photo 5)

http://www.vhf.org/shoe-room-us-holocaust-museum-and-thought-provoking-weekend-washington-dc (Photo 6)