The Indomitable Faith of the Jewish People

Bishop Paul Lanier  |  June 11, 2024

Bishop Paul Lanier at Auschwitz.
(Photo: Aleksey Muratov)

Last week, Bishop Paul Lanier, The Fellowship’s Board Chairman, went to Poland to visit the notorious Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. During his visit, he shared these initial thoughts on the impact of the powerful and emotional trip.

Our vocabulary will never catch up to the evil inflicted by the Nazis.

Their creativity to destroy will always surpass my ability to speak of it. And their quest for mastery might’ve succeeded – if not for the Jew.

The ashes of Auschwitz are forever greater than the forgotten dust of tyrants. And the ashes of one Jew cannot be separated or distinguished from another. In its unintended irony, such a hellish moment flipped the Shema to include “Behold O God, the children of HaShem, the people are One.“

All of it was suffocating. But only one thing broke me down inconsolably.

I think it was block 4 that houses the hair of young European Jewish girls who had grown their hair long for marriage. It was with them on the suffocating boxcars that brought them to this unholy place, but was shaved off as soon as they arrived. The guards could steal their hair. But they couldn’t take their holiness.

It was the prayer shawls of those who, seemingly against all reason, still prayed. They carried the shawls with them on the train. In the midst of unfathomable evil, they were saying to their captors: “You can take my shawl, but you can never silence my conversation with Heaven. I will praise God naked.”

It was in a collection of pots and pans. I confess when I turned the corner and saw them I didn’t understand what they were doing there, until someone explained they were kosher. Red pots for meat, white pots for milk and cheese, and so on. Even on the train where there was no food, their faith drew them to pack their identity from Sinai in their bags. 

At Auschwitz, it was not what the Nazis did that broke me down. It was the indomitable faith of the Jew.

Bishop Paul Lanier