THE Vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton, the Revd Nicky Gumbel, has
spoken about the members of his family who were killed during the
Holocaust. He concluded that "no one has really ever come up with a
satisfactory answer to the question of suffering."
In an interview for the Things Unseen podcast in
November, Mr Gumbel described how his father, a German Jew, had
refused to talk about his life. It was his mother who had broken
the silence, just once: "I remember exactly where we were. We were
walking along the promenade in Hove, near Brighton. And she said to
us 'Your father is German and Jewish, and you are never to speak to
him about it,' and we never did."
Although at the time he "couldn't really understand why" he was
not allowed to ask his father questions, "now I do understand . . .
when you realise the trauma that he must have experienced. I think
of it like supposing the whole Christian population of the UK were
put in concentration camps, and I have lost all my family and all
my friends - not just dying, but dying the most horrific death. How
would you ever begin to process that?"
After Mr Gumbel's parents died, his paternal aunt wrote to tell
him all she knew about his father's life. Eighteen months ago, the
Jewish Museum in Berlin contacted him,in search of information
abouthis family. "They sent me a document that told me more about
my family than anything I had ever discovered before. . . They also
sent the family tree, which showed the different concentration
camps that each of the cousins died in, and that made me realise
just why he could not talk about it. It was just too horrific."
He had also discovered that one member of his family,
EmilGumbel, had been a friend of Albert Einstein.
Asked how he reconciled his faith with the horrors of his
family's suffering, Mr Gumbel said: "The issue of innocent
suffering is the hardest question to answer. It's the biggest moral
objection to the Christian faith, and no one has really ever come
up with a satisfactory answer. . .
"Ultimately, I think, for me, the reason that Christianity is so
powerful is that Jesus is not aloof from suffering. God is not
aloof from suffering. He came, and was part of our world, and he
died inthe most horrific way, so that he understands
Mr Gumbel, who has overseen the expansion of the Alpha course,
revealed that, before his conversion to Christianity, he had been
"quite an argumentative atheist". He was called to the bar before
he trained for ordination, and described how, watching people who
had been convicted being sent to prison, "I would always think, 'Is
that really it for that person?'" It was an "amazing joy", he said,
to see ex-offenders in his church.