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Cooperating with Murder

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Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

11 Adar I 5765
Question
At Auchshitz many jews were forced to help in the process of gassing or burning jews. Of course, if they refused to do this then they would also be murdered. What would Jewish law say about this? Was the right thing for them to make every effort to save their own lives as you should do everything possible to save ones life, would this be considered an act of survival or would they have been considered murderers just the same as the Nazis? Should they have done as they were told and assit in the murder and live themselves or should they have refused to commit murder even if it meant their own life? The other jews would have been murdered anyway with or without cooperation from the ones the Nazis forced to help would this make a difference in what they should have chosen to do?
Answer
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a) states that for all sins, one should rather transgress than die apart from three - Idolatry, Adultery and Murder. The Gemarah learns the logic behind this ruling is that your life is not worth more than the other's. Please G-d we should never be confronted with these dilemmas and I can't judge those who were, yet the torah clearly rules as mentioned above that those who choose to participate are transgressing murder and it's better to be killed than to kill. (See more in Shulchan Aruch YD 157; 1)
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