Guest / Limited Access /

"Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer while awaiting execution in a Nazi prison. "We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer."

I read Bonhoeffer while touring the three tiny Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. As I was exploring country roads and cobblestone streets, hostilities broke out between Israel and Hezbollah, giving me much opportunity to practice Bonhoeffer's principle on how to regard people.

Israel. You cannot understand the Israeli mindset unless you visit a scene from the Holocaust: Auschwitz, Dachau, or perhaps the Paneriai forest on the outskirts of Lithuania's capital. There, Nazis converted storage pits designed for oil tanks into open graves. As trains full of Lithuania's Jews arrived daily at the tiny Paneriai station, ss guards marched the Jews to the pits and systematically shot them. The practice continued for two years, and corpse burners reduced the bodies to bones and ashes to make room for more bodies. At least 70,000 Jews perished in the pits.

I visited Paneriai on a cloudless summer day. Located amid a pine forest, its dark green background was interrupted by an occasional white birch tree. Although butterflies flitted among the wildflowers, the forest seemed oddly void of birds, as if nature itself recognized a place of haunting. I walked from pit to pit, each labeled with the exact number of people massacred: 7,898 here, 5,423 there. In a small museum, the recovered diaries of neighbors report matter-of-factly how many trains arrived each day, how many died, how long the shooting lasted. Blood had seeped into the ground I walked on; human ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
Previous Philip Yancey Columns:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Long-Distance AIDS Ministry
How one modest-sized church in North Carolina is making a big difference in the heart of Africa.
RecommendedThe Real History of the Crusades
Subscriber Access Only
The Real History of the Crusades
A series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics? Think again.
TrendingWhy Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
Why Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump
In the face of a candidate’s antics, ‘America’s Pastor’ speaks out.
Editor's PickLet's Kiss Dating Hello
Let's Kiss Dating Hello
A sociologist reveals her research about “ring by spring” culture on a Christian college campus.
Christianity Today
Middle East Morass
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.