I'd like to draw attention to another editorial which ran in the same magazine but which expresses belief in the Holocaust (to use a simplifying phrase). It is dated May 9, 1945, the day after the successor government of Germany surrendered following the suicide of Hitler and the fall of Berlin.
The editorial writer dismisses his own newspaper's former skepticism and says "the evidence is too conclusive" that the concentration camps were killing centers. "The thing is well-nigh incredible. But it happened." We see the line "Buchenwald and the other memorials of Nazi infamy reveal the depths to which humanity can sink, and has sunk, in these frightful years." But notice what standards of evidence seem to have convinced the editors that "it happened." It's the Belsen photos.
Including the vague use of Bergen-Belsen and similar photos as Proof of the Holocaust (so obvious that only a flat-earther type would deny), we see a lot of the pieces of the Holocaust jigsaw puzzle, and familiar Holocaust moral rhetoric, in place in this 1200-word editorial. But one important thing is missing. I won't say what it is yet. If you read the full editorial from start to finish, see if you can guess what I mean. I'll return to this at the end.
Here it is:
Gazing into the Pit
[Editorial appearing in The Christian Century periodical.]
May 9, 1945
The horrors disclosed by the capture of the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald, Belsen, Limburg and a dozen other places constitute one of those awful facts upon which a paper such as this feels under obligation to comment, but concerning which it is almost physically impossible to write. What can be said that will not seem like tossing little words up against a giant mountain of ineradicable evil? What human emotion can measure up to such bestiality except a searing anger which calls on heaven to witness that retribution shall be swift and terrible and pitiless? How can men (and, it is alleged, women) who have been capable of such deeds be thought of or dealt with save as vicious brutes who must be exterminated both to do justice and in mercy to the future of the race?
We have found it hard to believe that the reports from the Nazi concentration camps could be true. Almost desperately we have tried to think that they must be wildly exaggerated. Perhaps they were products of the fevered brains of prisoners who were out for revenge. Or perhaps they were just more atrocity-mongering, like the cadaver factory story of the last war. But such puny barricades cannot stand up against the terrible facts. The evidence is too conclusive. It will be a long, long time before our eyes will cease to see those pictures of naked corpses piled like firewood or of those mounds of carrion flesh and bones. It will be a long, long time before we can forget what scores of honorable, competent observers tell us they have seen with their own eyes. The thing is well-nigh incredible. But it happened.
What does it mean? That Germans are beyond the pale of humanity? That they are capable of a fiendish cruelty which sets them apart from all the rest of us? No, not that. For one thing, we read that a large portion of the victims in these concentration camps were Germans. We do not believe that the sort of Germans who were subjected to this torture under any conceivable circumstances would themselves have become torturers. For another thing, we have reason to know that mass cruelty in its most revolting forms has not been confined to Germany. We have seen photographs that missionaries smuggled out of raped Nanking. We have read the affidavits of men who escaped from the Baltic states and eastern Poland. We know what horrors writers like David Dallin and William Henry Chamberlin believe would be revealed if the prison camps in the Soviet Arctic were opened to the world's inspection. We know, too, the frightful things that have happened in this country when lynching mobs ran wild— things so horrible that they can only be told in whispers.
No, the horror of the Nazi concentration camps is the horror of humanity itself when it has surrendered to its capacity for evil. When we look at the pictures from Buchenwald we are looking, to be sure, at the frightful malignity of nazism, this perversion of all values which in its final extremity is actually intent, as Hitler himself has said, on reducing all European life to "ruin, rats and epidemics." But in the Nazis and beyond them we are looking into the very pit of hell which men disclose yawning within themselves when they reject the authority of the moral law, when they deny the sacredness of human personality, when they turn from the worship of the one true God to the worship of their own wills, their own states, their own lust for power.
Buchenwald and the other memorials of Nazi infamy reveal the depths to which humanity can sink, and has sunk, in these frightful years. They reveal the awful fate which may engulf all civilizations unless these devils of our pride and of our ruthlessness and of the cult of force are exorcised. And they reveal that the salvation of man, the attainment of peace, the healing of the nations is at the last a religious problem. The diplomats may mark out what boundary lines they please, the victorious armies may set up what zones of occupation they will, but if man continues this self-worship, the pit yawns for us all.
The foul stench of the concentration camps should burden the Christian conscience until Christian men cannot rest. The conventional ministry of past years is no ministry for these days when mankind totters on the brink of damnation. The puny plans which denominations have been making are so inadequate to this crisis that they are nearly irrelevant. Unless there is a great upsurge of testimony to the power of the Christian gospel to save men from the sin which is destroying them and their institutions, all the reconstitution of church paraphernalia now being planned will be so much building on sand. In this crisis the gospel cannot be preached dispassionately, tentatively or listlessly— not and save civilization from the pit. A time has come when the Christian must proclaim his gospel "like a dying man to dying men."
For we are dying men— dying, all of us and our institutions and our civilization, in the sins which have reached their appalling climax in the torture chambers of Europe's prison camps. Only faith in the God and Father of Jesus Christ, the God who sent his Son to reveal a common and all-inclusive brotherhood, can save us. Our contempt for the sacredness of life, our worship at the shrine of our own power, has gone so far that it has taken these horrors to shock us into awareness of the tragic fate toward which we are stumbling.
In God's providence, has not the World Council of Churches become a living hope for such a time as this? So far, progress toward the formation of the World Council has been cautious, following familiar patterns, a matter of negotiations and treaties among sovereign denominations. The goal has seemed largely to be the attainment of an organization. Is not the agony of mankind a call to the World Council to forget everything but the proclamation of the Christian evangel?
Should it not be the business of the World Council now to gather from all lands Christians who will go everywhere, pointing to the encroachments of human depravity which have been laid bare, proclaiming to men and nations, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish"? Let the council gather for this common task Niemoller and the Christian leaders with him who have withstood the Nazi scourge, as many of them as may emerge from imprisonment; let it gather Bishop Berggav and the noble pastors of Norway; let it gather every Christian in the world who sees the peril and knows the means of escape, and let it send them forth with such an evangel as has not stormed this sin-stricken world since the days of the first apostles. Buchenwald and the other concentration camps spell doom. But it is not simply the doom of the Nazis; it is the doom of man unless he can be brought to worship at the feet of the living God.
Now what was missing from all that?
Did you notice it?
There is no mention of Jews.
On the contrary, there are mentions "the prison camps in the Soviet Arctic," implied to be morally equivalent to Buchenwald. We even see a line that "Frightful things that have happened in this country [the USA] when lynching mobs ran wild— things so horrible that they can only be told in whispers."
Heroes of the story are Pastor Niemoller, the German dissident, and Bishop Berggav of Norway, who risked execution by openly defying the Quisling government in Norway during the war. These are both Protestants and Northern Europeans. There are no Jews mentioned whatsoever in the 1,200 words of the editorial, either directly or indirectly.
There is also no direct mention of gas chambers. The story still had a long way to go.
I find no primary source for The Christian Century's long-past archives (it still exists today but is no longer an important or influential periodical). This editorial, "Gazing into the Pit," was republished in the following:
The Christian Century Reader
Representative Articles, Editorials, and Poems Selected from More than Fifty Years of The Christian Century
by HAROLD E. FEY and MARGARET FRAKES
ASSOCIATION PRESS: New York | Copyright © 1962 by The Christian Century Foundation