Reminiscing about his friendship with the eminent historian of Russia Richard Pipes—who died last week at the age of ninety-four—Paul Kengor notes some of Pipes’s theological reflections:
Richard Pipes was born in Poland on July 11, 1923. As a sixteen-year-old Jew at the time of Hitler’s invasion, Pipes mercifully escaped, thanks to a clever and shrewd father. He credited not only his father but also providential intervention. That experience, and those that followed, taught Pipes several life lessons. In his memoir, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger, he wrote: “The main effect of the Holocaust on my psyche was to make me delight in every day of life that has been granted to me, for I was saved from certain death.” Pipes observed: “I felt and feel to this day that I have been spared not to waste my life on self-indulgence or self-aggrandizement but to spread a moral message by showing, using examples from history, how evil ideas lead to evil consequences. Since scholars have written enough on the Holocaust, I thought it my mission to demonstrate this truth using the example of Communism.” . . .
Pipes [also] wrote: “Many Jews—my father among them—lost their religious beliefs because of the Holocaust. Mine, if anything, were strengthened. The mass murder (including those that occurred simultaneously in the Soviet Union) demonstrated what happens when people renounce faith in God, deny that human beings were created in His image, and reduce them to soulless and therefore expendable material objects.”
As noted, surviving the Holocaust made Pipes delight in every day that God had given him. . . . Above all, he would spend the remainder of his long and scholarly life exposing godless ideologies and the totalitarian tyrants who deny that human beings are made in God’s image. Few human beings in the academy did that as nobly and expertly as Richard Pipes.