Moshe Flinker’s Diary Entry on Understanding the Holocaust, November 30, 1942

In depth entry from the diary of Moshe Flinker from November 30, 1942, in which he explores his theological understanding for the Holocaust.

. . . Now I return to the question mentioned above and its solution: what can God mean by all that is befalling us and by not preventing it from happening? This raises a further question, which must be settled before we can proceed further with the main problem. This second question is whether our distress is part of the anguish that that has afflicted the Jewish people since the exile, or whether this is different from all that has occurred in the past. I incline to the second answer, for I find it very hard to believe that what we are going through today is only a mere link in a long chain of suffering. I find it difficult to believe this primarily because of the effect that the restrictions and persecutions are having on me, but I know that it is very difficult to base the solution to a problem of such importance solely on personal feelings. [. . .] We should therefore compare our sufferings and theirs in order to find the difference between them.

            First of all, we see that in former times the persecutions were always localized. In one place Jews were very badly treated, while in another they lived in peace and quiet. Second, and perhaps more important, is the official character of our oppression today, and the organization created solely to persecute us. This difference is really very obvious. Unlike the Spaniards [in the Spanish Inquisition], for instance, who gave our religion as their reason, the Germans are not even trying to justify their persecutions; it is enough that we are Jews. The fact that we were born Jews is sufficient to explain and justify everything.

            To the first difference, we may add another; that today it is quite possible to destroy the entire people of Israel. The following example may explain this better. In the Middle Ages when an enemy besieged a city, he attacked it with fire and hurled stones into it, and also tried to breach the walls with large and sturdy battering rams. The strongest of the soldiers would grasp the ram and begin smashing at the walls. The people of those times thought that this was the height of strength and power. At the most, when a few dozen more men came to demolish the walls, the enemy reached the limit of its manpower and strength. But today we see that even a small child could destroy a whole city. One only has to connect a bit of dynamite to an electric current, and a mere touch of a finger can destroy the strongest wall in an instant. So it is with respect to our suffering.

            In olden days—for example in Crusader times—our ancestors thought that the climax of persecutions had been reached; but today, without swords or weapons, we see persecutions a thousand times more severe. The explanation is that today everything is highly organized. They arrange and organize, organize and arrange, until perhaps only one in a thousand is able to flee or hide. And why can they now organize everything in a manner that was not previously possible? The reason is, and here we return to our second main different, that with the Germans everything is official, everything is done according to the law. The law condemns us. Just as there is a law against stealing, so there is a law to persecute the Jews.

            So we thus see that there really is a difference between our sufferings since our exile and our anguish in these terrible times. And because of this difference we have reason to ask; Why does the Lord not prevent this, or, on the other hand, why does He permit our tormentors to persecute us? And what can be the result of these persecutions?

            The answer to these questions does not seem difficult to me. We know that we were expelled from our country for our great iniquities; therefore, if we wish to return we must first completely repent of our evil ways and then we shall be able to go back to our land. However, the prophet foretold that we would not return because our righteousness, but as a result of the evildoing of our enemies and of our agony at their hands (such as happened in Egypt). [. . .] We must therefore hope that since most Jews do not dwell where they used to and that most of them wish to be redeemed, the hour of redemption has come and with the Lord’s help we shall soon be saved. Maybe even on the forthcoming feast of Hanukkah the Lord will perform this miracle and return us to our land. There is still one small detail that could spoil all this. But on this subject I shall write tomorrow . . . However, before I conclude I should like to pray to the Lord of Israel that He may fulfill in the near future the prayer: “Return us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall return; renew our days as of old.”1


[1] Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 101–03.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.