Have you heard of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp located in northwestern Germany during World War 2? It would be too painful for some to read about the atrocities committed there and to know the awful cost in lost lives. Those liberating the camp described the horror of their discoveries, the repulsiveness of the smell of death and the heartache of the survivors’ hopelessness.
At age 20, Helen Bamber joined the rescue and discovered that the best way to help the dying and despondent was simply to listen to their stories and their grief. Repeatedly, she found herself saying, “I cannot bring back your dead, but I’m going to be your witness, and I’m going to make it my life’s work to go on telling your story.”
Bamber, interviewed a few years ago by the ABC’s Andrew Denton, indicated that, well after the war, the Belsen camp continued to be home to thousands of displaced persons who risked starvation or a shooting death behind the newly descending iron curtain in Eastern Europe. Free, but not. No home to go to, no-one to love and no reason to live. The loss of hope was indeed one of the greatest tragedies for those inside, destroyed on the inside long before physical death actually took hold.
Many survivors paid out on God who they blamed for their suffering, as if He is obliged to over-ride the free will of others and intervene. The Bible points, though, to the existence of a real arch-enemy of humanity called Satan who blinds the eyes of those who do not believe (2 Corinthians 4:4). Maybe they are even blinded to the truth of God’s love and care of every suffering person who He not only created, but for whom He also provides an eternal rest where there is no more pain (Revelation 21:4). Jesus described this enemy as the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy, in John 10:10, yet declares Himself to be the source of abundant life. True freedom is finding eternal life where, though we may be shackled and oppressed in this life, our certainty in the next has us living in its power to bring hope today.