[Common sense is more sophisticated and subtle than logic. Almost everyone feels the need for consistency, i.e. logic, in their belief system. But many people feel no such need for common sense. Indeed, they often fail to recognize that the premises on which their whole system of belief is built are startlingly implausible. Although such people may command our admiration in some respects, it is usually folly to try to reason with them. Their difficulty is deeper than reason. The following account tells of such an individual. His deeply held convictions contain elements of Christian theology which have been drastically simplified and distorted. The result is a belief system that is vivid in its bizarreness, a bizarreness that is accentuated by the courage with which it is lived.]
Petro Mirchuk was a Ukrainian nationalist who was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941 and spent four years in various concentrations camps before being liberated from Mauthausen in Austria by the American army on May 6, 1945. In his memoirs he tells of one prisoner, a German Jehovah’s Witness called Martin, who worked with him on the same shift in Auschwitz. Martin told him the following story of how he was brought to Birkenau, the part of Auschwitz where the Jews were gassed, and how he narrowly escaped their fate. A trainload of Jews who were being transported to the camps passed through the town where he was living. They were in a miserable state and begged, through the windows of the train, for someone to give them bread or water. Martin tried to help them and a guard, not caring who he was, pushed him on to the train. He didn’t protest because he felt that whatever happened was God’s will for him, and thus he was brought to Auschwitz as a Jewish prisoner. Because of his youth and strength, he was selected to work in the sondercommando, a work detail whose job it was to transfer the corpses from the gas chambers to the crematoria. Every three or four months, the sondercommando would be liquidated, and a fresh one formed from new prisoners that were constantly arriving at the camp. One day Martin and another member of the sondercommando were selected to help two SS guards in the daily execution of fifty to a hundred prisoners who were not sent to the gas chamber. It was not clear to Martin what principle was used in selecting the victims, but their job was catch the prisoner by his hands and arms as he came through a door, and force him to kneel. Then Oberschaarfuhrer Molle, a sadistic SS would shoot him in the head. Regardless of whether the victim was dead or not, he would then be thrown into the flames of a pyre that handled the overload from the crematoria. On this occasion it happened that the other SS was an old school friend of Martin’s. He was shocked to see Martin and asked him what he was doing there. When Martin had explained to him what had happened, the guard took him to the Gestapo office. After some confusion, it was decided to register him as a religious prisoner and he was sent to the main camp. Because of his religious convictions he refused to accept a position as a kapo (boss), and was sent to work in the effektenkammer (which processed the belongings of the prisoners) where he met Mirchuk and the two became good friends.
According to Mirchuk, everything Martin saw he accepted without comment because of his religious beliefs. Martin explained his opinion about what was happening in the world, and especially here, in the following way: The Lord had created the world and everything was perfect. It was easy at that time to decide what should be done and what should not be done. One of the angels decided one day that he could arrange everything even better than the Lord had done. His name was Satan. The Lord knew that He could send for the offending angel Satan and put him in a concentration camp and that would be the end of it, but He also knew that some people then might think that Satan was, perhaps, right. So the Lord decided to do something else. He sent for Satan and told him that if he thought he could do everything better, he could try ruling the world. That, according to Martin, was the reason that everything was in such confusion. No one knew under Satan’s rule what was just and what was unjust. The just suffered and the unjust were rewarded. Hitler and Mussolini were not really human beings; they were agents of Satan and did what he told them to do. He said that one day God would call all people for final judgement and ask them if they had liked Satan’s rule, if they thought that Satan had done a better job of ordering the world than He had done. Of course, everyone would acknowledge God as the only Lord and then everything would again be arranged perfectly and Satan with his helpers, the devils, would be sent to a concentration camp. Martin said that it was not an accident that he, a pure German, was arrested, made a member of the sonderkommando, recognized by a classmate, and sent to the main camp after three weeks. He said all this had happened because the Lord wanted to have a witness to the happenings in a concentration camp organized by the Nazis.
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