“As powerful as anything you’ll encounter on the stage or big screen this year,” wrote Anthony Sacramone earlier this week, reviewing God on Trial , a “compelling and disturbing television drama to broadcast on PBS stations Sunday, November 9.”
It opens with a bus arriving in modern-day Auschwitz, Poland. The tourists on board are informed that, for a mere ten zlotys extra, they can peruse the grounds, see the death camps. Among the tour troupe is someone who needs no introduction to the camps. He is an Auschwitz survivor.
As the tourists enter the gates, another bus unloads its passengers onto the same camp grounds. But these are no tourists: They are prisoners of the Third Reich. Heads shaven, frames emaciated, eyes hollowed out, they are quickly sized up by the camp doctor. Those sent to the right will live a little longer; those sent to the left will die the next day. Survival of the least unfit.
The story, inspired by Elie Wiesel’s The Trial of God , unfolds with intensity as those sent the right, to the blockhouse, grapple with some of the deepest questions of life and death: How could a good God permit such heinous suffering? How could he desert themor was he ever there at all? The film doesn’t give an easy answer, to us no less than the Holocaust survivors and victims.
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani , cried Jesus from the Cross, echoing the words of the Psalmist. “My God, my God, who hast thou forsaken me?” In the face of unbearable suffering, we join this cry. And, gazing on the crucified Messiah, experiencing our own woundedness, the piercing questions arise: Who is God? and, moreover, Is God?