Rev. Todd Baker is a Staff Theologian at Zola Levitt Ministries.
This article appeared originally in the February 1998 issue of the Levitt Letter.
After thoughtful analysis from Scripture, the answer would be a qualified no. Divine forgiveness is always based on repentance and faith (Mark 1:14). Jesus made this clear, and said so more than once in Luke 13: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).
Scripture teaches that if the sinner does not repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, he will not be forgiven but will eternally perish. God’s forgiveness is effectively given when the sinner admits that he has sinned and needs to be forgiven by God (Luke 18: 9–14). Some people might say that the statement made by Jesus on the cross in Luke 23:34 (“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”) contradicts this, but that verse cannot be used for the Nazis because those words, from their context, applied directly to those who crucified the Lord.
To apply it to the Nazis is to read into Luke 23 something that simply is not there. Most of the Nazis never repented before God for their crimes against the Jews. They never asked the Lord or the Chosen People to forgive them. Indeed, those Nazis who were brought to justice either denied that they had murdered Jews (Herman Goering) or justified it as simply “following orders” (Adolph Eichmann). Because Nazi Germany refused to repent, God justly condemned them and brought utter destruction upon their country, using the Allied powers as His instrument of judgment in the process.
Many passages in the New Testament tell us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:47–48). These verses do not mean, however, that we are to overlook the wrong acts of others. The love that is meant here is one that includes a righteous hatred for sin and evil. Until the surviving Nazis see the terrible harm they have caused and ask God to forgive and save them, they cannot be forgiven. We do not love what they did, nor can we condone or excuse their atrocious acts against the Chosen People and the rest of humanity.
On the contrary, we must constantly remind the world of what they did to the Jewish people so that it will not happen again. Jesus said that God will “avenge” His “elect” (Israel and the Church) and mete out punishment on those who seek their harm: “And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him… I tell you He will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:7–8). The Nazis certainly fall under this category, if anybody does.
The eternal promises that God made to Abraham stand for all time. Among the unconditional blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant is the one that clearly says that God will curse anybody who seeks to harm, curse, or destroy the Jewish people. In this covenant, God said, “I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you” (Genesis 12:3).
This has been fulfilled throughout the course of history. Hitler’s Nazi Germany brought God’s eternal curse of Genesis 12:3 down upon itself, just like all the other nations, empires, and individuals before it that sought to destroy the nation of Israel. The Nazis are the latest of those who joined the graveyard of anti-Semitic nations when they tried to exterminate the Chosen People. If God were to grant forgiveness to the Nazis who have not repented, He would in effect be breaking His own promise to Abraham and the Jewish people.
The Bible teaches that there is no forgiveness for the reprobate, this includes Nazi Germany. The biblical doctrine of reprobation begs the question of what is a reprobate? A reprobate proves by his very actions that he is an enemy of God who will not change, no matter what God does. He remains hardened against God even at death. Human reprobates (like their spiritual counterparts, Satan and the fallen angels) cannot be forgiven by God because they have closed their hearts to Him.
The Pharaoh of the Exodus and Judas the Apostle are biblical examples of reprobates. We discover from these two individuals that there are two distinct features of being a reprobate: (1) a permanent hatred for the Jews and (2) an incorrigible unbelief and opposition toward Christ. Obviously the Nazis possessed these two traits. They proved by their recalcitrance that theirs was a reprobate rule. They rejected and sought to destroy the Jews, and so God justly rejected and destroyed them.
Liberal Churches are fond of speaking about a God of love, to the point that they exclude the God of judgment. They would say that God loved the Nazis and forgave them, and that the Jews and the rest of us Christians need to make peace with the past by forgiving Hitler and his followers. But this kind of unbiblical thinking is symptomatic of the universal apostasy in the Church today. Liberal churches are known for worshiping an attribute of God rather than worshiping God Himself. They especially do this with the attribute of love, to the exclusion of God’s wrath, holiness, and righteousness, which require that He punish sin.
This holy God raised up the Allied powers to mercilessly destroy Nazi Germany so that the Nazis could not prevail in their satanic quest of exterminating the Jewish people, which would have rendered the promises of God to the Jews null and void.
For those in the Church to tell the Jews they need to forgive the Nazis is hypocritical. Christians need to wake up and realize that the Church has also been responsible for the long historical mistreatment of the Chosen People. Jews who survived the Holocaust can tell you how the Nazis who sent them to the death camps and gas chambers claimed to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ. When Christians tell them to “get over” the Holocaust and forgive the Nazis, the Jews understandably interpret such advice as a belittlement of what they suffered and a denial of the grave reality of what happened to their people at the hands of these self-proclaimed “Christians.”
The churches of Europe did little or nothing to save the six million innocent Jews who were killed. Instead, they looked the other way, or worse, gave theological justification for Hitler and the Nazis. It is the Church, not the Jews, that needs to ask for forgiveness from both God and the Jewish people for its passivity and complicity in the Holocaust.
The Church needs to stand up and take responsibility for its part in the Holocaust and the historical abuse of the Jews. Until this is done, Jews will naturally view Christians with suspicion.