Fire in the Ashes
God, Evil, And the Holocaust
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Washington Press
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Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
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Prologue: Flames in the Darkness
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In his classic Holocaust memoir called Night, Elie Wiesel succinctlydescribes the deportation of Jews from Sighet, his hometown in Nazi-occupied Hungary, during the spring of 1944. That railroad journeyreduced his world to “a cattle car hermetically sealed.”1 Wiesel recalls theheat, the thirst, the pestilential stench, the suffocating lack of air but...
Part One: The Burden of Evil
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Probing the terms God, evil, and Holocaust, we have from the outset atheological issue concerning where the burden of evil lies: Does it fall on God or on the human being? That burden, from the traditional stand-point of theodicy, is not only humanity’s but also God’s to bear. If that is the case, however, which God or god are we talking about? Even if...
1 / Fire and Ashes: The “Tempter-God,” Evil, and the Shoah
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The old, fraught dialectic of the location of God within the specific evil of massacre has already been articulated by the Psalmist. Oppressors who have shed blood, amassed dead bodies, and enslaved prisoners compound the survivors’ anguish by demanding, “Where is their God?” (Psalm 79:10;see also Joel 2:17). The traditional Jewish and Christian response has been...
2 / Jean Améry: Memories of Evil and Consequences for the Representation of Jewish Identity in Christian Theology
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The Catholic theologian Norbert Reck explores in his doctoral dissertation the possibilities for Christian theology to think from the perspective of survivors of the Holocaust, and to make the narratives of survivor testimony—and thereby Jewish self-understanding as expressed by Jews themselves—the starting point for theological reflection.1 He concludes:...
3 / Judaism in Protestant Encounters with the Shoah
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The question of God and evil after the Shoah is not merely one more iteration of the perennial question of theodicy. What makes post-Shoah theology different is that it raises, in an unavoidable way, the necessity of a post-Shoah Christian theology that avoids supersessionism. The purpose of this essay is to investigate whether such a rearticulation of...
4 / Locating God: Placing Ourselves in a Post-Shoah World
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According to Irving Greenberg, the Shoah is a reorienting event for Christians as well as for Jews. The assumptions of covenantal theism, of God acting in history as a partner in a divine-human covenant, are sorelyt ested and either found wanting or reconfigured in the process of com-ing to terms with what happened during the twelve long years of Nazi...
Part Two: Searching Traditions
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The Serbian novelist Danilo Kiš (1935–1989) was the son of a Montenegrin mother and a Jewish father. Subotica, Kiš’s Yugoslavian home town, stood near the Hungarian border. When the Germans attacked Yugoslavia, in April 1941, Subotica came under Hungary’s control. Not until March 1944, when the Germans occupied the territory of their faltering Hungarian allies, did the Jews of Hungary face the Holocaust’s...
5 / “Like Pebbles on the Seashore”: J. B. Soloveitchik on Suffering
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Rabbinic sources relate three instances of controversy regarding the final canonization of the Hebrew Bible. The sages debated whether the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Esther should be included in the complete text.1 Should the themes of erotic passion, existential despair, and God’s invisible hand in history be made explicit through these ancient books?...
6 / “Good” Friday after Auschwitz?
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In September 2000, the document “Dabru Emet,” a “Jewish statement on Christians and Christianity,” was published initially in several North American newspapers. In the same year, the initiators of “Dabru Emet”published a volume that aims at taking the first concrete steps toward anew understanding of Christianity from a Jewish point of view. They...
7 / If the Good Becomes the Evil: Antimonotheism in Germany after Reunification and the Problems of the Doctrine of Justification
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Friedrich Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God can be interpreted not as God’s annihilation but as a forecast of God’s reappearance beyond good and evil. From this perspective, Nietzsche’s death of God is a prophecy of a new God. When Martin Heidegger declared, in 1966, that “only a God” could save us, he joined Nietzsche to await a new and as yet...
8 / Some Fundamental Doubts about Posing the Question of Theodicy in the Post-Holocaust World
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The post-Holocaust theologian Irving Greenberg urges upon us the realization that in our time “neither faith nor morality can function . . . unless they are illuminated by the fires of Auschwitz or Treblinka.”1 In the spirit of Greenberg’s claim, it is more than appropriate for an essay in a volume exploring the post-Holocaust relation between God and evil to...
Part Three: Beyond the Ruins?
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This volume’s third and final part begins—and ends—with a question:in addressing the problem of God, evil, and the Holocaust, can traces of Jewish and Christian tradition be retrieved from beyond the ruins of Auschwitz? It is important to retrieve those traces, not least because we realize that without them there may be no problem of evil...
9 / Horror Vacui: God and Evil in/after Auschwitz
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The question concerning the relationship between God and evil was not born in the Holocaust, even if the Holocaust’s magnitude raises this question in the most severe way. For centuries, theologians and philosophers have tried to understand, in light of human suffering, the relationship between God’s almightiness and God’s goodness. Alongside declarations...
10 / Deliver us from Evil? Kuhn’s Prayer and the Masters of Death
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The evil experienced by human beings requires at least two intermingling conditions. First, something must happen, for evil is scarcely possible without activity. Second, feeling, remembering, and reasoning loom large. No feeling implies no pain or suffering. No remembering entails no continuity of experience. No reasoning means no concepts...
11 / Seeking the Fire in the Ashes: A Chasidic Accounting for Evil from the Midst of Evil after the Evil of Auschwitz
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Jewish thought has been in a state of crisis ever since the evil of Auschwitz engulfed the world. While a number of Jewish thinkers have attempted to fathom the implications of that evil for Judaism, Michael Morgan rightly points out in A Holocaust Reader “how slim are the really superior Jewish contributions to the enterprise of rethinking Judaism after Auschwitz.”1 In a previous book, Beyond Auschwitz, Morgan examined...
Postscript: The Disturbance of the Witness
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Having come to the end of this sifting through the ashes of the Shoah, we come to no end. But we do come to a realization. The Czech author and survivor Arnošt Lustig puts it this way: “These ashes would be indestructible and immutable; they would not burn up into nothingness because they themselves were remnants of fire....They will be contained...
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About the Editors and Contributors
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Publication Year: 2013