In Frank Cottrell Boyce’s teleplay, Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz put “God On Trial.” The charge is that God has broken his covenant with his chosen people. Before a panel of three “judges,” witnesses are called to give testimony. Is God guilty?
Most of the prisoners understand God’s covenant — and his failure to keep the covenant — in simple terms: he promised to protect his chosen people but has failed to do so.
Some of the Jews defend God. “The covenant was conditional and we have sinned,” cries one. A witness is called, a father who has lost his infant sons to the Nazis. “How did my sons sin?” he asks.
Another prisoner claims that out of suffering comes greatness, that the holocaust is but the darkness before a brighter day. Did not the Jews learn to flourish because of Babylon? One judge is not impressed with this argument: “A court cannot acquit based on a future hope.”
Near the end of the play a rabbi stands. His testimony is grim: “God is our enemy,” he says simply. “That is what happened to the covenant. He has made a new covenant with someone else.”
What is the Jews’ suffering if not the suffering God meted out to the mothers in Egypt, whose innocent children were murdered by the angel of death? What is the Jews’ suffering if not the suffering of the Canaanites who were slaughtered by Joshua and his armies? What is the Jews’ suffering if not the suffering of Saul who was cursed by God for showing mercy to the Kenites?
“God is not good, ” he says. “He was simply on our side.”