By the Way With Joel Meeker
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“The Needy Shall Not Always Be Forgotten”

A walk through a quiet forest reminded me that evil men sometimes purpose to make others disappear without a trace. God will not allow it.

One crisp, overcast morning in the pine forests of northeastern Poland, 100 kilometers from Warsaw, my wife and I walked through a clearing. We walked among 17,000 scattered quarry stones purposely reminiscent of tombstones, because this clearing was the site of the Treblinka extermination camp.

Between July 23, 1942, and Oct. 19, 1943, the most horrible period of what the Nazi regime called the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, between 700,000 and 900,000 men, women and children were murdered here. At peak monstrosity, 12,000 to 15,000 were killed every day.

We walked slowly along the former path of the rail line, where a branch led to a mock train depot. To keep the condemned passive, the entrance to the camp was disguised as a transit station.

Sign at the site of the Treblinka extermination camp.

Sign at the site of the Treblinka extermination camp.

We walked up the hill to the location of the disrobing rooms. Men and women were separated, told to turn in their valuables for safekeeping and strip naked for a shower, in preparation for being sent on to resettlement camps farther east. The guards then rushed them quickly into the gas chambers, disguised as showers.

Exhaust fumes from a captured Russian tank were used to asphyxiate the victims, which took 20 to 30 minutes. A bit farther along, we came to the location where the open-air crematory pits were located and the bodies, doused with gasoline, were burnt.

Unable to erase the memory

One of the most astounding elements of the horror of Treblinka was that the Nazis believed the barbarism could be hidden. When the camp closed, bodies buried earlier were disinterred and burned. The rail spur was removed; the buildings were destroyed; remaining bone fragments were pounded to powder; and the soil was plowed back to farmland. A house was built, and the “farm” was turned over to a family.

The SS intended for those hundreds of thousands of Jews to disappear without a trace—to leave no memory behind.

But there were a few survivors; among them were 70 who escaped and survived the war after a revolt in August 1943. They told their stories. Many guards were held accountable. Even today archaeologists work to reconstruct the history of this chilling place.

God’s promise

Even more important than what men do to remember, God promises He will not allow any humans to permanently erase the memory of any others. He loves all His children, and He will restore their lives and their potential, however terribly their first passage on earth may have ended.

Jesus explained that God does not forget even the smallest of animals, much less creatures made in His image: “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).

No matter how arrogant and cruel people may be to each other, God will have the final word, restoring life and hope.

David wrote of God’s ultimate promise for all people:

“For the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail; let the nations be judged in Your sight. Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men” (Psalm 9:18-20).

No one will be forgotten.

–Joel Meeker


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