“Where Was God?” or “Cain, where is your brother, Abel?”

“Auschwitz was indeed the terminal expression of exile” (Richard Rubinstein).

“In faithfulness to Judaism, we must refuse to disconnect God from the holocaust” (Emil Fackenheim).

“Who is like you our God, mighty in silence?” (Eliezer Berkovits)

‘We cannot understand it with God. And we cannot understand without him.” (Elie Wiesel)

“After Auschwitz there is no more poetry”. (Th. Adorno)

[…] behind this apocalyptic messianism of ‘the Reich’ there was at the deepest depths something else as well: the hatred of God, and the will to exterminate not only the Jews but with them the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his eternal righteousness and justice, so as to establish the atheistic despot. The murder of the Jews was an attempt to murder God. (Jürgen Moltmann, God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology, SCM Press, 1999, p. 171)

The suffering of helpless children from which there is no way out, and which has no meaning, makes people cry out for God and despair of God. ‘If there is a God, why this suffering?’, ask some. ‘Where was Israel’s God when his children were thrown into the pit? Where was the Christian God when people belonging to Christendom turned into these cruel monsters who faithfully and in faith carried out the commands of the Antichrist? After Auschwitz can we go on believing in an almighty, good God in heaven? After Auschwitz, can even evil still work for good?

The question asked by the sufferers themselves is not ‘Why does God permit this?’ It is more immediate than that. Their question is ‘My God, where are you?’, or, more generally, ‘Where is God?’

The first question – why does God permit this? – is the question how God can be justified in view of the immeasurable suffering in the world. The second question – the question of the people involved – is the cry for God’s companionship in the suffering of the world, a suffering which he condemns. […] The second question, the ‘where’, seeks a God who shares our suffering and carries our griefs.

But then there is still a third question about God, which we often suppress with the help of the first. It is God’s question about men and women. It is not the question about the victims. It is the question about the perpetrators and those who have to live in the long shadows of Auschwitz. This question is what we call the question of justification, meaning by that, not that God has to justify himself to the world for its suffering, but that the evil-doers, the murderers and those who have to live in their shadows, have to justify themselves before God. Can the godless become just? Is there reconciliation for the perpetrators and those who come after them? Is conversion to life possible? After Auschwitz, do we still have a human future worth living for? In this context we don’t cry ‘Where is God?’. We hear the eternal voice which cries ‘Adam, where are you?’ and ‘Cain, where is your brother Abel?’ and ‘What have you done?’. (172-173)

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