Concentration camp letter pinned to a child's clothes

This prayer was on the back of our Sunday newsletter. A really beautiful prayer, however it has made me think.

In suffering, most people reach out to God and without doubt God would offer his grace in abundance to those condemned to death in a concentration camp. However, could the fruits borne out of such suffering, with God’s grace, be used to forgive the evil and sin of those implementing the suffering?

I could envisage God offering his grace to enable such people to repent, before dying, of their crimes, however could they be saved from their actions through the ‘fruits borne from suffering’ by their victims? I can also see that the prayer was written with total forgiveness of heart and no doubt whoever wrote it went straight to heaven, but still cannot see how the fruits of such suffering would enable those causing the suffering to obtain forgiveness on judgement day. (I hope this gets my point across).

Concentration Camp Letter

*O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us:

Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering—our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.

When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

(Found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck concentration camp.)*

What a beautiful prayer…in other words the prayer is asking god to accept their sufferings and death for the salvation of their prison guards at the concentration camp so they may see heaven too…

That is such a saintly and selfless prayer…

Beautiful prayer.

Wow. Very moving. Whoever wrote this had great faith and great love.

On the one hand, while Judaism states that anyone can pray for another’s well-being and redemption (whether Jew or Gentile), on the other hand, only the victims of persecution, such as in this instance, have the absolute moral right to ask G-d for forgiveness for their persecutors. That is what this person, whether they are Jewish or not, has done, as the letter reveals. However, apart from what we may think, G-d, needless to say, has the ultimate authority to grant mercy to whomever He pleases for whatever reason He pleases. Unlike G-d, we are not privy to the interior life of any other human being, including what may have caused them to sin, what their true intentions were, whether they have remorse for their behavior, and so on. G-d alone judges, not us.

That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing this. :thumbsup:

Also, that’s a lovely prayer. :crying:

I am aware there are differences between Judaism and Christianity when it comes to things like this. Forgiveness as well. If I am not greatly mistaken, Judaism teaches that one does not forgive one’s offender until he repents. Christianity is different when it comes to that.

In Catholicism, one is not only permitted, but encouraged to pray for sinners in hope that they will be given the grace to repent. One is reminded of Ste Therese of Lisieux’ prayers for a notorious murderer in France. Catholicism would grant that one cannot “force” God to do anything He does not want to do. But the Christian view admits of the possibility that God may grant redemptive grace if asked to do it.

Very interesting point, and helps to explain the prayer more clearly.

Actually, at its heart, Judaism agrees with Catholicism on both these points. It is in fact encouraged to forgive one’s offender rather than harbor resentment regardless of whether s/he repents. Holding a grudge is itself regarded as sinful as is not accepting sincere repentance from another. However, it is the offender who MAY not (but, as I stated in the previous post, it is not for us to say for certain) be forgiven by G-d without repentance, which means a change in behavior as well as heart and mind. At the same time, we are encouraged to seek repentance directly from others when we commit wrongdoing since it is not only G-d Who must forgive, but also the injured party. This paradox can, I think, be explained in the sense that seeking repentance from others can lead us to changing our own mind and heart toward them, which morally and spiritually benefits us as well as them. As to your second point, Jews are also encouraged to pray for other sinners, particularly when the sin is committed directly against G-d. However, it is also believed that sinners must seek their own atonement toward G-d, again because this serves to change them internally in the moral and spiritual sense more than our praying for them. I think where our religions do disagree is in the notion of redemptive grace. According to my interpretation, Christianity believes that it is G-d who provides this grace to pray for and forgive others, whereas Judaism believes that, while G-d is the ultimate Source of everything, humans already have within them the “grace” (not a Jewish concept, hence the quotation marks) to make incremental changes in their lives by means of seeking repentance from others and bestowing forgiveness on others.

I have seen Jews differ with this, but I accept it that you may be more knowledgeable about it than they.

I am nowhere near being a theologian, but the “great divide” between Judaism and Christianity is the Incarnation, and the differences in the concepts of grace might flow from that. I can see how it might. But again, not being theologically learned, I will not purport to expound on that.

Yes, Jews will disagree, even learned Jews. In this respect, they are similar to Jesuits, so I’ve heard. (You may know the old joke about two Jews (or Jesuits) discussing an issue, resulting in three opinions.) Certainly you’re right about their being larger issues of division between Judaism and Christianity. I mentioned grace only because you brought up the concept in your previous post.

Thank you for sharing.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.