ARBEIT MACHT FREI
Today we remember the victims of the Holocaust by commemorating the 6oth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Oswiecim, Poland. It is unlikely that anything I might say could approach what needs to be said about this subject. If you know of what happened there, and why, then you know words cannot suffice. But I will say something for those who do not understand. My comments are of necessity a bit of history and a lot more theology.
The Holocaust represents the depths of utter depravity to which we human beings can sink. The lives of over a million unfortunates (the majority of them Jewish, but not all) were systematically extinguished by the Nazis at Auschwitz in a grotesque display of Teutonic efficiency, perverted nationalism and spiritual nihilism. The latter is the key.
The German people were not a primitive folk. They were exemplars of Western scientific, cultural and industrial advancement. Yet the National Socialist ideology, which crawled from the mud of the Great War trenches in the possessed person of Adoph Hitler, grew to dominate Germany and most of Europe. It found its most visible and vehement presence in the hatred of the Jews.
They were slaughtered, not like cattle, - for the killing of cattle serves a positive purpose - but to to feed an unquenchable and ancient hatred of which anti-semitism is the primary corporeal symbol. Gypsies and the mentally handicapped, Catholic priests and Protestant clergy, the unfit and the politically and spiritually opposed, - all were destined for slaughter most foul. But especially the Jews.
As a Catholic, I find my spirit heavy to breaking when I contemplate the Holocaust. That Nazi hatred should find its evil focal point with the Jews tells me all I need to know about the spirit underlying Hitler and his many, many followers. My Lord and Saviour was, and is, a Jew. God comes to us through the Jews and without the Jewish people there would be no Catholic church and no Protestant church and no Eastern Orthodox church. Without the Jews there would be no Christianity. You may think this no big thing. I think it is everything.
The people Yahweh chose to make His own were the very people Hitler chose to destroy in full. More accurately, they were the people he was compelled to destroy, for he was merely the willing instrument of an ancient Adversary and the visible sign of the great spiritual battle which began with the words, "I will not serve" and which found its first corporeal manifestation in the serpent's corruption of Adam and Eve in the Garden, followed by the Divine response noted in Genesis:
"I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy [Satan's] head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."
We Catholics believe the woman of the Genesis prophesy was Mary, the Jewish mother of Jesus. By her pefect submission to God, - "Let it be done to me according to thy will" - a young, pure and perfectly humble Jewish woman allowed God to incarnate in her human flesh and spiritually crush the head of the Adversary. The ancient proud refusal to serve was countered by the perfect submission to humble service. Lucifer and Hitler can be juxtaposed with Abraham and Mary in the created order of things.
There can be no question Hitler, the conqueror of nations and murderer of millions, was in thrall to the ancient Adversary and therefore unable to comprehend that great question of the incarnate God, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?"
Hitler's complete unwillingness to submit to the Creator of Worlds led in a cosmic irony to his total submission to the Destroyer of men. Viewed in that light it is quite expected that Hitler's final act was to destroy his own life. The Destroyer destroys where he can, but he must desperately want to kill all God's chosen ones. With the Nazis he managed 6 million.
It is not for nothing we Catholics are required to reject Satan and all his pomps at our baptism and to renew these vows every Easter. Our choice of which spirit to follow is of eternal importance. Hitler's choice of a spirit to follow (he was a baptized Catholic, who plotted the destruction of the Church, as well) led directly to the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the systematic destruction of all undesirables, but first and foremost - the Jews.
Above the entry gate the Nazis placed the words, "ARBEIT MACHT FREI." Work makes free. You have no doubt seen the photographs. The words remain there. They are a great lie worthy of the father of lies.
It is knowing the Truth that sets us free.