Emil L Fackenheim, Johannes B. Metz, Jürgen Moltmann, "Hope--After Auschwitz and Hiroshima," in Walter H. Capps, ed., The Future of Hope, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970, pp. 92-101

Abstract by Jerry Darring


Fackenheim notes that Hiroshima and Auschwitz have this in common, that they involve killing that is more impersonal, detached, and rational. The bureaucratic murderer Eichmann is in a way "like some perfectly harmless man in Washington who gives the order to drop an atom bomb" (94). But they are distinct in that the atom bomb was dropped in pursuit of war ends, while the genocide of Auschwitz was carried out for demonic ideological purposes. What hope is there? "I would say that without repentance there is no hope" (95).

Moltmann says that he has nothing to express except "a deep feeling of shame" (95) and "such an amount of guilt that it cannot be overcome with repentance" (96). This causes him to want "to enter into the community of those who have no answers, but questions, and who have no explanations, but only a cry" (96). Perhaps God was in Auschwitz because there were those who prayed the "Shema Israel" and the "Our Father."

Metz asserts that faith is possible after Auschwitz precisely because there were Jews in that camp who cried out for God and prayed; they "got through Auschwitz and still believe in the one God, who is their God and our God" (97). He thinks that the Catholic Church should excommunicate people not only for dogmatic or moral reasons but also for socio-critical reasons: "Why isn't there a kind of socio-critical excommunication with respect to racism and in every kind of situation where man is contemptuously treated by man?" (98).