I step hesitantly through the entrance of Auschwitz, almost afraid of what I will see.

Auschwitz lies in a secluded alpine forest near the city of Krakow, Poland. It’s a name that brings an aura of darkness and gloom to all who hear it. Inside the barbed wire encircling the camp, over a million innocent people were systematically exterminated as part of the Nazi’s final solution. 

I’m wondering if I have the fortitude to endure what lay ahead.

A Gruesome Message

Around me, remnants of the horror still stand, a reminder of the evil that can exist in men’s hearts. Rusty tracks that bore the trains filled with victims remain intact. Wooden buildings that housed prisoners under unspeakable conditions stand alongside the gas chambers and incinerators, horrific reminders of the atrocities that existed here.

I walk through a dimly lit hallway in a building that has witnessed grief and sorrow beyond what most of us can imagine. Its walls are lined with photos of those who suffered and died here. Their eyes stare at me, dark and vacuous, pleading, crying out for mercy. A mercy that never came.     

How could God have allowed this to happen?

Cobbled streets meander through the camp. The stones are ash in color, splintered and cracked from age. The tears and blood spilled on these pathways have long since washed away, but I can sense sorrow and despair once flowed here like a raging river. I close my eyes and smell the stench of the bodies being incinerated. I hear the panicked cries of pain drifting over me like a macabre mist lingering over the forest.

Twisted strings of barbed wire still encircle the encampment. I see the gaunt, broken bodies of those who may have chosen a quicker death by attempting escape. Their emaciated corpses hang suspended in the air, entwined in the harsh teeth of the metal strands, ravaged by the bullets from the machine guns guarding the camp. 

The gallows, where thousands were publicly executed, stand tall and forthright in the courtyard. I see the victims’ bodies twist slowly in the breeze. The ropes around their necks creak as they tighten under the victims’ weight. Their feet flail about in desperation, and the cords cut deeper and deeper into their flesh until they gasp their last, frantic breath. A gruesome message of obedience or death to those who lived there. 

My steps take me into the last building. On display are thousands of tiny shoes and boots from the children who were savagely exterminated, a horrific message stating even the young and innocent are not immune to the evil in the world. Tears fill my eyes. I marvel how any human being could inflict such suffering on another.

And once again, I wonder: How could God have allowed this to happen?

A Different Kind of Message

I could never have imagined a place so somber, so absent of light. Despair surrounds Auschwitz like a dark fog, stifling one’s ability to put into words what is seen and felt here. As a member of the same human race guilty of committing these atrocities, I am ashamed and horrified such evil could have existed in modern society. 

Many ask the same question: How could God allow this to happen?

I consider this question as I envision the faces of the millions who must have stared into the heavens, imploring, crying out for deliverance from their torment. 

But it wasn’t God who perpetrated this misery. It was the wickedness in men’s hearts, allowed to grow and thrive, killing over seven million people before Allied powers finally brought an end to the insanity. 

It’s impossible to make sense of what happened at the death camps. That knowledge comes only from the One who created us. But if there is a lesson for us, perhaps it’s a message of intolerance: intolerance for senseless human suffering — suffering we must never turn our backs on. To do so degrades our morality, making us no better than the ancient Romans who derived pleasure from the senseless massacre of Christians in the Coliseum.

I would like to believe such hatred could not exist now. That we have learned the lessons of the past so they will never be repeated. But I live in a nation where hatred and conflict of a different sort flourishes, and I also may be blind to suffering elsewhere in the world. 

So, then, how do we respond to the questions of why God allows these atrocities to happen? How do we respond to the evil itself?

The Courage To Do What is Right

We certainly do not have all the answers. We may never know this side of Heaven why God allows evil to reign in man’s heart to the point of murdering millions of people. But we do know God has told us to take a stand against sin. James tells us in Scripture we must always be vigilant and confront evil.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

I pray God gives us all the vision to recognize the truth and the courage to always do what is right, regardless of the cost. What I saw here will remain a part of me, the eyes of the damned forever etched in my mind. 

God might not stop every atrocity from occurring, but He promises us one day He will conquer evil once and for all. In the book of Revelation, John poetically described the vision and imagery of Jesus’ return. It is his words that give me comfort and solace, knowing in the end, pain and suffering in the world will no longer exist.  

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Beyond the darkness, I leave Auschwitz with a greater understanding of the true depth of human misery. It has put my own trials and challenges in a different light. As I face adversity in my life, I hope I endure it with the same dignity and courage as those who perished here.

Bob Blundell is a former mid-level manager who spent his career in the oil industry. Since retiring, he has rekindled his passion for writing. His work has been published in magazines such as The Bible Advocate, Liguorian, The Living Pulpit, and Torrid Literary Review. Bob and his wife Dee live in the Houston area.