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Essay/Term paper: What theological questions relevant to the study of judaism are raised by the holocaust

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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The Jewish people have always considered themselves as God"s chosen people and have

undergone a lot of traumatic oppression throughout their life.

Evolving out of a common religion, they have developed customs, culture and an ethical

system which identified them as Jews regardless of their individual religious attitudes.

There is a pattern evident in which the Jews have been cast as victims. The first sign of

oppression noted in Jewish history according to the Hebrew scriptures, was the time in

ancient years when the Jews were held in captivity by the Egyptians as slaves. Moses"s

escape with the children of Israel marked the crucial transition in the history of Judaism.

This event is known as the Exodus. The Exodus experience can be called the "key event"

both in Jewish history and theology.

To understand the relevant details raised by the Holocaust one needs to understand how

Jewish people have a strong devotion to God and have an ongoing respect for people in

other religions. This is established by understanding the intention of the holy laws given

to Moses for the people from God. These laws are known as the ten commandments

which illustrates a list of obligations that there theology is firmly established.

Their theology is based on a closeness between tradition and their moral precepts, which

became conflicting for them during the time of World War II. Such is evident when they

were persecuted, traumatized and de-humanized in the concentration camps.

Similarly the Holocaust would be regarded as a very important event. It is this crucial experience

that the Jewish people have had to query their very existence through their theological


As an effect of the economic and political upheavals of the time, the Jews were seen as

endangering the purity of the Aryan race which was Hitler"s impression of the superior

people consisting of only the Germans.

During the horrid times of the war the Jews were deported to concentration camps in

Europe, where many were tortured, gassed and Jewish women as young as 13 and

onwards were kept and raped by the German soldiers. It was noted that over six million

Jews were slaughtered by the Germans and their collaborators.

This outrage was called the Holocaust. The Holocaust was not just an event. It was a process that

continued for over a decade and involved the deaths of many innocent Jews.

The Holocaust (1942-45) was the effort of Hitler to eradicate the Jews and other people that were

considered as inferior. It has been called the most terrible catastrophe in modern history and in

Hebrew terms it is known as Shoah meaning "a whirlwind of destruction". This outrage in history

left the Jewish people in complete awe as they wondered about the many theological questions

that were never answered, one of which would be "Why did God abandoned his people

throughout great times of their sufferings?"

Below, an extraction from a summary by Margaret Schwartz at the time of the war.

"Why don"t you pray to your God?" a man dressed in a fur coat told the girls. "He

helped you in the past, he split the Red Sea for you and gave you manna from heaven for

forty years. Ask him, he can surely spare a few crumbs of bread and a few drops of

water. There are only a few of you Jews left by now. Where is your God? Why doesn"t he

help you? (St. Michael"s text handout p.163) Such questions from this extract would

move the understanding of people to ask "Why did God allow his chosen people to

suffer" and "If God and humanity are so spiritually connected, how could one group of

people inflict so much pain on another race?".

The Holocaust therefore was not just about the experience of the Jews in a detention

camp. It was about the hardship of life through the anxiety of other Jews. Being

defenseless in there actions and having to die with each other. The living nightmare was

seen as one that had no end.

There are no logical truths to the theological answers the Holocaust presents on the

people. One cannot comment on a right or wrong answer, as the Holocaust is purely a

matter of human supremacy and destruction.

What happened in the past is their legacy to the future that cannot be erased or taken

away from them. Questions that would arose after the war, would conflict with the

connection they have with God. For victims of the Holocaust, the effects of this terror

did not end the way in which they had hoped God will save them. The trauma of abuse

and mistreatment remain as scars in Jewish history that will not heal. As one Jewish

victim stated, "To be a survivor of the Holocaust means that your heart is broken. It

might mend a little bit, but it could never be complete."

This statement speaks for the entire Jewish community who have had some connection with the


Whatever happened as a result of the Holocaust, God is still the savior of the Jewish people.

Whatever they perceive as being abandoned by God may not be in a sense of real abandonment

but a way that God should not be accountable for someone"s actions and that in itself would have

to be a question raised by the theological questioning of the Holocaust.


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