Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes,
In his terrifying account of the realities of 1944 Hungary and Poland, Elie Wiesel dictates his teenage perspective as his devout Jewish family is ultimately expelled from their Hungarian home, deported, imprisoned, and exterminated. He makes the following observation as the eighty terrified Jewish occupants of his family's train car, neighbors and schoolmates of a vanished universe are informed they have crossed the border and are being handed over to the German army.
“The doors clanked shut. We had fallen into the trap, up to our necks. The doors were nailed, the way back irrevocably cut off. The world had become a hermetically sealed cattle car.”
The people of Sighet, a small Transylvania town, were disillusioned, the reality incomprehensible. The year was 1944, a full four years after the establishment of the first of three main Auschwitz extermination and labor camps, ultimately forty eight in total. For years they sat in the heart of Europe as the ranks of the Third Reich gained power, speed, and influence, and still the rumors were dismissed, the people uncertain. He additionally reports how one of their own returned, escaping the bogus deportation of foreigners, after he crawled from their collective grave site. His perilous warnings fell on deaf ears, unheeded, as they continued to work, raise their families, and observe their faith. The residents of Sighet were not alone in their inability to grasp the reality of such evil. Despite recurring reports revealing the activities of such camps, it wasn’t until 1944 that the Allied forces finally submitted to their legitimacy.
Christ himself cautions His followers that persecution and suffering are synonymous with His very name. As He was preparing to leave His chosen twelve, He readied them for a future of torment and affliction. He spoke of the hatred of the world, the inevitable fight from government and the church, and persistent persecution solely as result of their devotion to Him. As American Christians, living in a land established on the wings of divine providence, we have long enjoyed a quiet season. While relishing in the stability of such a foundation, have we remained comfortably blind to the pick axes chipping it away? It seems we are finding ourselves on shifty sand. Our recognition of divine providence has been replaced with that of a corporate resilience. We are all too pleased to believe in a just God, but we must understand the meaning of this promise we hold so dear; One who is consistent in governing His people, and honoring His word. We have enjoyed the spoils due a faithful people, but can we now muster the audacity to call ourselves as such?
Listening to the leaders of our day, one cannot help but wonder what thought dwells in the proverbial space between each line. We accept our current policies, but how will they differ as we continue to trade gratitude to our God for self determination. The cool winds of change seem to be felt by more than a few. One hears an argument as seemingly innocent as that of preserving the rights of all who follow the rules, but remain ever mindful that this also means nonconformity absolves liberty. We must be prepared to accept the meaning of this statement and its potential implications as the country we know turns further from the God who allowed it to be. It is time to listen, time to decide who we are, and time to anticipate the unexpected. We have been warned for two millennia the price of our commitment, ignorance is indefensible and solidification of our allegiance overdue.
Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel, translator, Night (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958, 2006) 24.
Elie Wiesel is the author of more than forty internationally acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America Congressional Gold Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and, in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and University Professor at Boston University.
John 15:20-21 NLT- "Do you remember what I told you? 'A slave is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me."
John 16:1-3 NLT- "I have told you these things so that you won't abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the father or me."