Here’s David Berlinski defending God’s role in the Holocaust (from page 31 of his book, The Devil’s Delusion): “[T]he thousand year Reich…lies buried in the rubble of German cities smashed to smithereens,…[I]f God did not protect his chosen people precisely as [atheist Sam] Harris might have wished, He did, in an access of his old accustomed vigor, smite their enemies, with generations to come in mourning or obsessed by shame.”
In other words, David Berlinski is saying in defense of God that though God did not protect the Jewish people from the Holocaust, he nevertheless empowered the Allies to destroy the Jews’ enemies (the Nazis) after the fact, and to set those enemies into eternal infamy among men and women.
But here’s the problem with David Berlinski’s justification of God’s behavior surrounding the Holocaust. If God can smite (David Berlinski’s word) the enemies of the Jews after the fact, it means God could have simply prevented the murderous behavior in the first place.
By analogy, you don’t praise a police chief for tracking down, arresting, and smiting a murderer after the murder has occurred if you also know that the police chief could see the murder coming, had the power to stop the murder, and didn’t stop it. The obvious question for the police chief is: “Why didn’t you just prevent the murder? If you can smite, you can prevent, right?”
And the free will defense does no good here. In deciding between competing goods, it could be argued (absurdly) that God preferred the free will of Hitler and the Nazis to the suffering of six million Jews, and so had to let the Nazis slaughter the Jews. God, being all rational and good, presumably chooses the greatest degree of rationality and goodness to prevail in the cosmos, and that includes the risks entailed in the exercise of human free will. But David Berlinski says God empowered smiting, and smiting restricts the freedom of the will of the murderers as surely as preventing the will of the murderers in advance. It takes the murderers off the playing field of existence permanently. No free will there.
So any explanation of the Holocaust on theism quickly runs into serious problems of coherence. The Berlinski quote highlights this.