A week after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we publish this guest blog post by Howard Stern of Emmaus Group.
My first view of snow-covered Poland was out of the plane window on its descent into Krakow airport. A cold white landscape hid what lay beneath the fields and woods surrounding Auschwitz-Birkenau: the ashes of the dead.
The Lord had been putting Auschwitz on my heart for some time, so in January 2015, I set off to see for myself the evidence of the Shoah, the holocaust, that saw millions murdered in a highly efficient and well documented killing factory. The crumpled ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, destroyed by the Nazis in an attempt to hide their atrocities, lay under a carpet of crisp white snow, betraying the silent screams of millions who passed through these edifices of inhumanity. The sheer scale of Auschwitz-Birkenau is breathtaking, the size of a small town. In all directions stretch rows of huts, or their remains, where Jews, Gypsies and others deemed unsuitable for the Aryan vision, were worked to death. The women and children had no such opportunity, they simply disembarked from the trains, were processed and sent straight to the gas chambers. If there was a delay due to sheer volume, they were made to wait in forested areas within eyesight of chimneys that filled their noses with the smell of burning flesh, simultaneously dusting them with the ash of those who had gone before.
At Auschwitz 1, itself an ex-Polish military barrack close to the town of Oswiciem, the evidence of great pain and suffering, human experimentation, mass shootings, brutality and gassing is clearly evident. One is struck by how efficient the Nazi ideology was enacted. Today, as then, the Germans are extremely efficient in organising and recording. The camps are full of photographs and documentation detailing who had been killed, how, when, where and even why. The evidence of what happened there, and in Birkenau two miles away, is irrefutable.
There are not words to adequately describe what I saw, or indeed felt, as I walked for many hours in the snow, imagining the scene decades earlier. Ninety-thousand Jews lived in horrendous conditions at any one time in Birkenau whilst thousands of others simply passed through daily, en-route to the gas chambers. There is a silence in the camps. It is hard to quantify, just a sense, in the spirit realm perhaps, that something very terrible happened here. In one building used to process new arrivals, the faces of children and families stare at you from old photos taken from their property when it was deceptively confiscated. The only reminder they ever existed.
On the bus back to Krakow many questions filled my mind. How had this happened? How had a civilised European culture degenerated into such a state of darkness and denial? How could educated men, many, husbands and fathers themselves, mock the women and children who were forced to strip and be shaven of body hair before being herded like cattle into chambers where, moments later, highly toxic Zyklon-B gas pellets would descend upon them like a rain from hell? How did their screams not move these cultured family men to stop, to think, to betray their Fuhrer? At Auschwitz 1 you can still see the scratch marks on the wall of the gas chamber made by the finger nails of those being gassed in their final moments on earth.
What possessed their minds to create such a hell on earth for God’s chosen people? Only one conclusion is possible – the devil did. It was a satanic deception in the extreme. It happened in the face of Europe, and therefore Europe’s political leaders were all culpable to a degree. So I asked myself a difficult question: if it happened then, could it happen now? God forbid!
Yet in the early nineties I remember watching with astonishment, events unfold in the former Yugoslavia. Less than fifty years on from the Shoah, man’s inhumanity to man manifested again with ethnic cleansing and a war in which mass murder was committed by one tribe against another – within Europe’s borders. Shortly after the same happened in Rwanda. It happened in Sudan. Today we see it in Syria and Iraq, perpetrated by ISIL. It could be argued to be happening again in Europe – the early warning signs exist for those with eyes to see?
There is something inherent in human nature that, if influenced in the wrong way, it is still capable of great evil. “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good character” says the Apostle Paul. (1Cor 15:33)
The character of an entire nation was corrupted in the 1930s leading to the atrocities that followed. It was corrupted by one man with a vision, a man very familiar with the occult, a man whose mind was filled with evil yet who charmed and deceived with power and might. Assisted by other occultists such as Himmler, one deceived another and by time the seed multiplied, deceiving an entire nation of cultured people into perpetrating, ignoring, or standing with a great act of evil. Seed always reproduces of its own kind.
So powerful was this corruption it deceived even the church. Some in the Roman Catholic Church went further and were complicit in helping Nazis escape after the war. Read Verner Oder’s autobiographical book: Battling Nazi Demons. In Krakow, a large church stands on the edge of the old Jewish suburb from where the Jews were evicted at gunpoint and relocated across the river in the ghetto of Podgorze. From there some escaped to the sanctuary of Oscar Schindler’s factory just outside the ghetto walls. Most went over the hill to the new death camp of Plaszow. If you go to Krakow you can visit the Schindler factory, the ghetto, the quarry where the camp was, and the old Jewish suburb. All are within ten minutes walk of each other.
The silence of the church was deafening. As atrocities were committed, the church sought to appease and became complicit by default, afraid to speak out because of the repressive political system. The Nazis and Gestapo would deal harshly with anyone who criticised their policies. Today, political correctness legislates silence and again seeks to stop the church being a voice for justice, truth and speaking prophetically to the nation. Today as then, in many places it seems, the church fears man more than God.
Inside Auschwitz you can read a quote by a former inmate: “those who don’t learn from history will live it again.”
The Shoah was triggered by one man’s vision, influenced and empowered by the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. A vision to destroy God’s people, Israel, a vision continued today in part by Islam’s most ardent followers. The spiritual forces of anti-semitism are alive and active in Europe and beyond. Our battle is not, therefore, against flesh and blood but against these powerful principalities of darkness in the heavenly realm – this is where we must take our fight. Will you don the armour of God and fight? Will you be a voice for God in this nation? Please, learn from their history so you don’t live it again.
Krakow – January 2015.