Who is responsible for the Holocaust – Hitler or the Jews’ karma?
Transcription by– VandanaGoel and Keshav Gopal Das
Question– Who is responsible for the holocaust? Is it the Jews themselves who were responsible for the suffering that came upon them or is it Hitler who is responsible. Who is behind this brutal killing of millions of people?
Answer– Actions that happen have multiple levels of causes. Let’s look before we go into pinning responsibility on a particular agency. Let us look at multiple level of causality. For example, currently there is great danger of Ebola. What is the cause of Ebola? Specifically it is an infection caused by a particular infectant. Who is responsible? We could say that, ok I was living in the area that was infected so I am responsible. Or we could say; that person with whom I came in contact was infected as he had travelled from Africa to America so that person was responsible for spreading of Ebola. Or we could say that medicines (although right now there are no medicines), were not administered properly. Or we could say doctors did not take adequate preventive measures and that’s why Ebola has spread. All these are in fact true. The important thing is when there are mass calamities, more important than pinning blame is taking corrective action or preventive action. There are the factors which contribute to the immediate cause but there is another level of causality which goes further behind. And that is where we talk about the level of causation at the karma level.
When we talk about past life karma, a very important principle to understand is that it is not a replacement for this life cause-effect. But it is an extension of this life causes and effects to a larger context. Suppose a person drives carelessly and meets with an accident. Is that accident because of past life karma or this life karma? This life karma is also definitely a factor. If the person had not driven carelessly, it’s quite likely that the accident may not have happened. The point is, the past life karma does come into factor but it is not a replacement but it is an extension.
Now let’s go to holocaust. Certainly it is Hitler who is primarily responsible for that brutality. It was he who along with his evil team came up with the plan of destroying Jews whom he imagined as the enemies for his realization of the Nazi empire that will span the world practically. So it was he who primarily orchestrated the brutality and he is responsible. So he will get the karmic reactions for having killed so many people. That is from the point of view of causality. A person has caused something then that person is responsible.
Now when we say “are the Jews responsible” then we have to understand that when we talk about the past life causality then we are not to judge people according to their past life karma. We are meant to ensure that justice and fairness happen according to this life karma. We see in the Vedic literature there are many tales, many stories, many pastimes of how kings take assertive actions when there is any injustice.
Ramayana describes how even a dog or a cow which was having some grief could come in the court of Lord Rama and Lord Rama would give justice even to them so what to speak of citizens. It was never said that this thing has gone wrong because it was past life karma. It was never like that. Justice has to be administered always. According to the principles of justice, if a person has done something wrong, then that person has to be corrected. Ravana abducted Sita, Lord Rama did not think that Sita has been abducted because of her past life karma; he punished Ravana for that. So in general whenever calamities happen then corrective actions have to be taken by the state administration based on this life’s karmic understanding and this life’s accountability. Beyond this life’s accountability, from the point of view of philosophical understanding as well as personal reconciliation we also consider the past life karma.
So there were many Jews who were terribly persecuted and why did this persecution happen? We understand that there might be another person who was the immediate cause but ultimately the principle of cause effect reigns supreme and whatever happens to us is an effect of what we have done in the past. Therefore if we find that something has gone wrong, something disastrous has happened, it is because of our past life karmas.
What specifically might have happened in past life karma? It is difficult for us to know. The important point to recognize is that cause-effect is often delayed. And sometimes it is so delayed that we may not be able to figure out the cause-effect also. That means that just as different seeds fructify at different periods of time, similarly different actions fructify at different periods of time. And some may fructify after entire lifetime, into a different lifetime entirely. So when such type of mass karmic reactions come then it means that there are many people who may have done different kinds of bad karma at different times. But their reaction is given to them through one mass calamity like this. Now when such a mass calamity happens, the point is not to justify the evil, the point is to rectify it. And that rectification has to be done by responsible and virtuous state administration. So that is always the Vedic emphasis. The injustice that has happened should be rectified not justified.
Who is responsible for the holocaust? At the level of travesty of justice, at the level of brutality that happened, yes, it is Hitler who is responsible and Hitler will get karmic reactions for them. And at a deeper philosophical level we can say the Jews who suffered had done some past karma in their previous life because of which they got the reactions. But that is not the important thing to consider when we are talking about administering justice. As I said the principle of cause-effect is what is central to karma and when we cannot make sense of cause-effect in terms of this life cause- effect links then we understand that we extend these cause-effect framework beyond this life to be able to philosophically understand the cause of suffering. But that extension is not a justification and that extension is not meant to act as a replacement for rectification in this life time. The world has seen enough suffering especially in terms of holocaust and that’s why the governments have to be vigilant always to ensure that brutal regimes like Hitler’s never take power by which they can kill innocent people in such terrible numbers and that is the responsibility of state administration.