Holocaust questions and answers

A rabbi, educator and author, known for his unrelenting fight for justice and against antisemitism faces his students' questions with honesty and clarity.

Rabbi Dr. Bernard H. Rosenberg

OpEds Graph of violent antisemitic incidents
Graph of violent antisemitic incidents

These are are some of the questions I have been asked throughout my years of teaching. I have tried to give honest answers.

One wonders why there was not a mass exodus from Europe when they knew that Nazi occupation meant death.

-Many Holocaust survivors have told me that the invasion of the Nazis and the annihilation of the Jewish population was like a tsunami. It happened so fast that there was no time to think, to flee, or to leave.

-Even if one wanted to leave, where would they go? Most countries did not allow Jews to enter, including the United States of America. There were quotas and anti-Semitism throughout the world.

-They thought it would all pass, just like other instances of anti-Semitism that had occurred in the past.. They believed Hitler would never have enough power or support to annihilate German Jewry. They were wrong and it cost them their lives.

-In addition, how does one leave behind family members while escaping to freedom, even if they could?

What do you think about God in the Holocaust?

I have taught Holocaust studies for most of my life on the high school and college level. When I discuss the Holocaust and God, I share many possible views. In truth, after having written numerous books on the subject I don't have an answer.

I cannot in good conscience believe that the Jewish people were punished, because if I believe that, then I would not be a Rabbi, and probably be an atheist. One and a half million priceless Jewish children were murdered. What was their sin?

The answer I give myself and others is that mankind caused the Holocaust, not God. . It is the only answer I can live with. Yet I just read Rabbi Avigdor Miller's "Divine Defense of Hashem Madness In The Matter of the Holocaust " and I remembered my father telling me the shoa is predicted in the Chumash, the tochahah .

My students ask me "Can the Holocaust happen again?"

I want to emphasize to those children and grandchildren who still have living survivors of the Holocaust in their families, ask questions now, don't be afraid.
My answer is a definite yes. A number of atomic bombs thrown at Israel by its enemies would annihilate the Israeli population. One is naïve to believe that anti-Semitism on that level does not exist throughout the world. If we have learned anything from the Shoah, it is that it is possible for a madman to arise who wants to annihilate the Jewish people.

-Never fool yourself into believing that you are safe anywhere.

-We must always be alert and fight against prejudice wherever it may exist.


How do we keep Holocaust memory alive and what is our message to our children, grandchildren and future generations?

In my opinion, all the museums in the world and all the books that are written will not preserve the memory of the Holocaust. In time, the Holocaust may become nothing more than a date in history.

If we teach Holocaust and genocide together as one subject, we guarantee that the impact of the Holocaust will merely blend into other genocides.

What is the solution? We must incorporate in our religious services and religious traditions, memoirs, readings, and liturgy, readings concerning the Holocaust. I have, therefore, already written a Holocaust Passover Haggadah and a Holocaust Siddur ( see on the internet: RosenbergHolocaustHaggadah.com). Reading about the Holocaust must become part of every Jewish holiday, particularly the High Holidays.

I want to emphasize to those children and grandchildren who still have living survivors of the Holocaust in their families, ask questions now, don't be afraid. Sometimes, a Holocaust survivor will not feel comfortable speaking to their children, but will be able to communicate their thoughts with their grandchildren. I ask that you do so before all the Holocaust survivors are gone.

Remember the lives, the culture, the achievements, of those who perished in the Holocaust.