I’ve been following, with some interest, the trial of the 93-year-old SS Sergeant and Auschwitz clerk, Oskar Groening. Mr. Groening, who is being tried on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, was known as the bookkeeper of Auschwitz and was in charge of cataloguing all the valuables taken from the Jewish people who had been sent to the death camp and sending the money to Berlin. At one point, as the number of cattle cars overflowing with people were backed up, he had been tasked with helping to unload everyone in the cars, many of whom were sent immediately to their death. As you can imagine, the trial is horrifying in its details. Holocaust survivors, who have travelled from around the world to attend the trial, are testifying about the atrocities they endured. Groening himself, while not admitting direct responsibility for anyone’s death, claims he was just doing what he was told, even though he has also said that he lives with the ‘moral guilt’ from his part in the holocaust.
I personally can’t imagine what it must have been like for anyone involved in the Holocaust but it certainly makes me think of the times we live in, right now. My mom told me once that she thinks about what her grandchildren and great grandchildren will say, when looking back on our times. They’ll likely ask what we did about the Abortion and Euthanasia Holocausts we are living through right now. What are we going to say? I went to a couple of Life Chains? I wrote a letter to my politician? In one sense Oskar Groening was just doing what he was told to do! How many doctors, nurses and medical personnel are doing just that – taking the lives of the innocent and vulnerable because it’s been requested by an individual or mandated by the state? And how many of us just stand by and let it happen? Is it enough for us to be pro-life, pro-family, anti-culture-of-death, but go about our daily business as if nothing is going on?
I can’t answer that question for you, but I’m embarrassed and horrified at how little I have done. It’s so easy to look back at those who lived during World War II and judge them. Auschwitz and Birkenau, as well as many of the other Nazi death camps were situated in areas that had towns nearby. Those townspeople likely saw the constant smoke rising from the incinerators; they likely witnessed the train cars full of people speeding towards the camp and the empty cars exiting, not to mention the brutality of the Nazi guards stationed there. And what did they do? Did they ask questions? Did they organize uprisings? There were also 6500 to 7000 SS officers assigned to the camps during the course of the war. These must have been normal people like you and I with families and lives of their own. What did they think or do? Even Oskar Groening admits to “pedestrian thoughts” while guarding the luggage of prisoners, like wondering if a trainload of Hungarian Jews that arrived at Birkenau had bacon with them. How many of those Jews made it out of the camp alive? And Groening was thinking about bacon?
I’m not writing this to make you feel guilty, nor to encourage you to run out and do crazy things in the name of the Pro-Life Movement. I am encouraging you to look at your own life and ask yourself how God might be asking you to defend life. We aren’t all called to do sidewalk counseling (I believe I would be a blubbering mass of tears, begging those women not to enter those clinics) or pro-life activism in the literal sense. But God calls everyone to support and defend life at one point or another through their own gifts; to write letters to politicians, to financially support those who are fighting for life, to have children, to encourage and support those struggling with their own children or aging parents, to be jailed for the defense of life like Mary Wagner, or even to give their own lives for their children, as St. Gianna Beretta Molla did (her feast day was yesterday). Gianna Molla is now a saint of the Catholic Church and her witness to the sanctity of life is clear and uncompromising. And while we most likely won’t be called to die for our children, our lives, no matter how small or insignificant, can also be clear and uncompromising witnesses to life as well. We must be strong and faithful in doing the work God has set before us, lifting up in prayer the smallest most vulnerable of our society, while challenging the societal ideals that aren’t consistent with Life in every way we can. If we don’t, we may end up in Oskar Groening’s shoes – being asked why we did not do more to protect the sanctity of life. What then, will we say to defend ourselves?
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.