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At Auschwitz  

The gravel crackled underfoot, as we trudged to our next stop at Auschwitz.  Here, 1,300,000 people were imprisoned between 1940 and 1945—with only 200,000 surviving.   Among other displays, we stared at shoes.  Hundreds of pairs—all belonging to little children who were slaughtered—composed a portrait of agony crafted in leather. We winced at the piles of women’s hair the Nazis shaved off of their victims. There were confiscated combs and pots and pans and suitcases—almost all still bearing their owners’ names.

A sensation like emotional nausea clamped my stomach as I pondered the 1.1 million who were tortured, starved, shot, gassed (2,000 lives per hour, thanks to Zyklon B gas pellets) and burned.

We had just walked through the courtyard where thousands of prisoners were executed against a brick wall.  Next, we hiked down to a basement complex where so-called trouble makers were starved or poisoned to death. 

Two-inch round door windows revealed cement floors, hangman’s hooks, crude toilets and the potential for inhumanity without equal.  The spiritual darkness of such evil is palpable in this basement more than 75 years later.

Yet walking away from Auschwitz, I am left with a different kind of heaviness. On the ledger of history, Auschwitz is recorded as a German catastrophe, a German wickedness.  While it happened to be Germans who created this death factory, the truth is, Auschwitz is alive and well in the heart of every unredeemed human.  The point is not just that Auschwitz happened (horrible as it was)—but that it is now happening—and will always be in the process of happening.  The danger is our inability or unwillingness to see it.

Consider that between 1986 and 1989, 8% of the Kurdish population of Iraq was killed. In the 1994 Rwanda genocide, as many as one million were slaughtered. Today we have Darfur, Sudan and ISIS and on and on.

Jealousy, hatred, and pride all lead to the same place.  It’s the place where marginalizing and suffering and persecution become our daily bread, with torture and death our familiar drink.

When the Bible says “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” this is not a reference to Nazis.  It is a reference to all of unredeemed humanity. 

Apart from Christ, we are all mockers, haters and killers.  So apart from Christ and His capacity to heal all hatred, there will always be another Auschwitz. 

Let us be warned. Sharing the gospel is not just “nice.”  It is not merely “important”—it is imperative!

 

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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At Auschwitz

Jon Gauger Media 2016