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Against Indifference

Four Christian Responses to Jewish Suffering during the Holocaust (C. S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, André and Magda Trocmé)

Carole J. Lambert

Against Indifference analyzes four responses to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, moving on a spectrum from indifference to courageous action. C. S. Lewis did little to speak up for victimized Jews; Thomas Merton chose to enclose himself in a monastery to pray for and expiate the sins of a world gone awry; Dietrich Bonhoeffer acted to help his twin sister, her Jewish husband, and some other Jews escape from Germany; and the Trocmés established protective housing and an ongoing «underground railroad» that saved several thousand Jewish lives. Why such variation in the responses of those who had committed their lives to Jesus Christ and recognized that His prime commandment is to love God and others? This book provides answers to this question that help shed light on current Christians and their commitment to victims who suffer and need their help.
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Chapter 1. Introduction

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INTRODUCTION

“I believe with all my heart that whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness. Once we have heard, we must not stand idly by. Indifference to evil makes evil stronger” Elie Wiesel (quoted in Sahagun AA4).

Atrocities occurred during the Shoah, but too many Christians were indifferent to them. In retrospect, from the point of view of twenty-first century Jews and Christians alike, this can seem incomprehensible. Why did C. S. Lewis and Thomas Merton, well known Christians who lived in that era, not react resoundingly to the brutal genocide of Jews about which Polish underground agent Jan Karski informed Great Britain and the United States as early as November 1942 (Karski 384, 387–88)? On the contrary, why did brilliant German Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer become involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, the evil force behind the Jewish genocide? And, why did Protestant pastor André Trocmé and his wife Magda risk their lives both hiding Jews and helping them to escape from their provincial town in southern France on to freedom beyond its Nazi occupied borders? What can persons concerned about ethics and ethical behavior today learn from these responses to Jewish suffering which range from minimal action to maximal intervention? This book intends to answer these questions. ← 1 | 2 →

One simple definition of “indifference” follows: “a dulled, insensitive, and uncaring disposition toward people” (Johnson and Ridley 124). W. Brad Johnson and Charles R. Ridley note...

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