Justifying the Holocaust

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim


A well-known Rabbi recently stated that asking why the Holocaust occurred is a complaint; it must not be a search for an answer. For if it were, and one found an answer—a justification for the Holocaust—such an understanding would "render one a Nazi by justifying the Holocaust."

However, dismissing this question as the Rabbi suggested, rejects the idea that God is just, and that there was justice in our tremendous tragedy. Torah describes horrific punishments for abandoning the Torah. The Jews suffered through God's corrective punishments throughout time, and it was always due to our sins. This Rabbi said that Elie Wiesel knew why the Holocaust occured, but he preferred that people remain ignorant, lest they "become Nazis" through accepting the Jews were blameworthy, thereby justifying the Holocaust. This reasoning makes Wiesel a Nazi. And as God too knew the answer, that makes God a Nazi too. In truth, all God does is just, so the fear of searching for a justification for the Holocaust contradicts God. God does not punish the nation without some sin: “Rav Ami said: ‘There is no death without sin and there is no suffering without iniquity’” (Sabbath 55a).

This Rabbi's view is a tragic failure to search for truth. Torah says, "Let us search and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord" (Eicha 3:40). Thus, when tragedy hits, we are not to ignore it, but to delve into ourselves to discover our sins. One should grasp that as God created justice, that God is just, and that there must have been some great flaw in the nation, to which the Holocaust was a response. We explore Jewish history and find that our sins precipitated all our catastrophes. The Rabbis teach, the Temples' destructions were caused by idolatry and baseless hatred towards others. Our 210 years of Egyptian bondage were caused by our idolatry. And our 40 years in the desert were caused by disbeleif in God. Either we study history and learn the sin to remedy our failures, or we admit our ignorance. But to claim the question can lead to Nazism and must not be asked, equates to ignoring Torah's lessons and abandoning honest inquiry.

The Rabbis ask why the righteous were killed first during the Temple's destruction. They give 2 very pleasing answers. "Pleasing," in that both answers complied with justice and sensibility: to spare them from seeing the destruction, or to punish them for not doing more; as leaders, they were responsible to attempt to deter the Jews from sin. The Rabbis teach us not to cower to even the greatest question. And as God is perfect and just, answers can be found, but only when we are honest and seek Torah knowledge.


To ignore inquiry into the Jewish nation's deservance of a Holocaust, to claim that such an answer renders a Jew a Nazi, is grossly antithetical to God's justice, and spits at honesty. It is flagrantly wrong and commits the Jews to an ignorance that can precipitate another Holocaust, God forbid.