Could You be a Guard at Auschwitz?

January 30, 2023

A woman testified to the transformation in her life that had resulted through her experience in conversion. She declared, “I’m so glad I got religion. I have an uncle I used to hate so much, I vowed I’d never go to his funeral. But now, why, I’d be happy to go to it any time.”

The above illustration strikes us as funny because of the incongruity of the situation. Also, there is likely someone we can insert into the story that represents the woman’s uncle. In I John 2: 9-10 the Bible poses a great challenge to allowing us to have just one or two people we hate. We read, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.” How loving are you? Is there anyone you hate, or if it helps think more clearly, anyone you have an extreme dislike for?

Did you know that scientists studying the physical nature of hate have found that some of the same circuits in the brain responsible for hate are the same as those that are used during the feeling of romantic love? This study used a brain scanner to investigate the neural circuits that become active when people look at a photograph of someone they say they hate and found that the “hate circuit” shares commonality with the love circuit. Professor Semir Zeki of University College London offered these thoughts, “Hate is often considered to be an evil passion that should, in a better world, be tamed, controlled and eradicated. Yet to the biologist, hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love. Like love, it is often seemingly irrational and can lead individual to heroic and evil deeds. How can two opposite sentiments lead to the same behavior?” (published in the on-line journal PloS ONE)

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson did an extensive study of how ordinary people like you and I supported the hatred of Nazi Germany. He learned that these ordinary people caved under the pressure of ostracism, imprisonment, torture, and death and became the machinery behind the gas chambers and death camps. In one video he said, “If you are going to understand malevolence in order to withstand it you have to understand that part of yourself that is malevolent, because if you don’t you are naïve. If you are naïve then you become easy pickins’” (The video is called “Imagine Yourself as an Auschwitz Guard” by Prof. Jordan Peterson on YouTube).

Can you imagine yourself as a guard at Auschwitz? You don’t really know yourself unless you have an understanding that you can be a monster. You can’t know how to love fully, like loving your enemies, unless you know your capacity to hate.

For years I have been giving a test to people, so they can test how loving they are. The greatest definition of love is found in I Corinthians 13:4-8. We read, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Now with a pencil and paper in hand take each phrase one at a time and replace the word love with your name, then write your thoughts about how patient you are, and kind you are, etc.

It is a profound experience to realize you are not as loving as you think. If you had trouble imagining that you could be a guard at Auschwitz then do the same exercise, only imagine that you’ve been asked to be a guard by someone recruiting you with access to your bank account, or the authority to arrest you, or permission by the state to torture you or a member of your family if you were to say, “No.” Both tests will teach you things about yourself you have never thought about. I highly recommend you do them because loving others unconditionally is very important to our Lord. Otherwise He never would have said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44). Every one of us could be a guard at Auschwitz. I hope you will take time to grow in love, so you will be one of those rare courageous people who stands up against the evils of hatred if you are ever confronted with them. (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see,