With Their Intentions
Excerpt from VaYeira 5765 by Rabbi Zvi Leshem:
The Piaseczner Rebbe grapples with the question of martyrdom in the Holocaust in relation to the classic model of medieval times. Then the Jews were given the choice to convert or be killed. In choosing death the Jew made a conscious religious decision to die as a martyr rather than betray his faith. In the Shoa the situation was entirely different. All Jews were to be killed regardless of their religious convictions. There was no way to save one's life through conversion. What is the status of Kiddush HaShem, Sanctification of the Name, when it occurs without conscious religious decision? The Rebbe's answer is powerful and shocking. In the Akeida there was self-sacrifice in thought only, as the act was ultimately prevented. In the Holocaust, on the other hand, self-sacrifice occurs in deed only, lacking forethought. Thus the death of Jews in the Holocaust serves to complete the process begun at the Akeida, and together serve as a “complete sacrifice”!
One could say the same regarding the martyrs of the last few years HY”D. When people are (God forbid) killed in a sudden explosion they die as martyrs without having made a prior conscious decision. Nonetheless their souls ascend to Heaven as a perfect sacrifice with the intentions of Avraham and Yizchak from the Akeida.