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by Stanley Hauerwas

Bonhoeffer For Us?

“Yet one may wonder how Bonhoeffer should be read by those in the ministry in our time. The challenges he faced are so different from the everyday tasks incumbent on those in the ministry in our day. Bonhoeffer confronted the Nazis and Hitler – it is hard to imagine a more dramatic conflict. Dangerous though it may have been, those confronted by the Nazi’s knew what sides they needed to be on. We seldom enjoy such clarity. The result is often a stark divide between activities associated with pastoral care and the social witness of the church.

Those in the ministry today must negotiate a very different world than the world Bonhoeffer encountered. We are unsure who our enemy is, or even if we have an enemy. We lack the clarity Bonhoeffer enjoyed – which, of course, is not a bad thing. But it leaves us confused about how to discern in the world in which we live what the primary challenge facing the church may be. Bonhoeffer saw quite early who the enemy was, though he was surrounded by many who did not see what he saw in the Nazis. Indeed, one of the interesting questions for Bonhoeffer’s relevance for pastors in our time is what enabled him to see the threat Hitler represented.”

For the entire article…

Fight Trump Spiritually

When rabbis walked out of Donald Trump’s speech Monday night at the national convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, they were literally turning their backs on the man who has been compared — rightly or not — to some of the worst haters in modern history.

While it’s dubious that Trump is a fellow traveler of Hitler, it is not dubious that he spews contempt with the ease of a born hate-monger. Trump hasn’t said anything truly noxious about Jews; he always demurs that he cannot be anti-Semitic because his daughter converted to Judaism. But the AIPAC protest was right because hate toward one people easily spills over into hate toward others, right because of the tragic history of the Jewish people, right because of the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition, a moral reflex to denounce injustice, iniquity and corruption, even when that truth is unwanted and, as too often happens, is frustratingly unheeded.

Perhaps the finest embodiment of this tradition in the 20th century was Rabbi Abraham Heschel, of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, who in the 1960s reached out to the poor, the disenfranchised, the forgotten of all faiths. His colleagues-in-empathy were such Christian luminaries as Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King Jr. All of them saw beyond the divisions of ideology and theology; all knew, as Heschel wrote, that “when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than the voice of compassion, its message becomes meaningless. Religion is an answer to humanity’s ultimate questions. We need to rediscover the questions to which religion is an answer.”

In some perverse way, Trump is providing a public service by forcing us to do as Heschel commanded. For the religious, the questions will be spiritual and theological. For the secular, they will be questions of civil comity and polity and national purpose.

There are many precedents for the rabbis’ protest Monday night. Marching in 1965 with King in Selma, Heschel said his “feet were praying,” a holy rebuke to the violent and immoral legacy of segregation. Two years earlier with King jailed in Birmingham, Ala., for local protests, eight white ministers publicly stated that King, and the civil rights movement, should temporize. Change, they said, will come, just not on King’s disruptive, presumptive schedule. From his cell, King responded that if the Christian theologian Paul Tillich was right and sin is separation, then “is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?” King also reminded those who resisted civil rights that, when early Christians entered a town, the powerful tarred them as “outside agitators.” “But the Christians pressed on,” King noted, “in the conviction that they were ‘a colony of heaven,’ called to obey God rather than man.”

The prophetic impulse survived even in Nazi Germany. A pastor in the Rhineland courageously told his superiors that anti-Jewish violence violates “the simplest moral judgment. … I have never doubted my people as deeply as now.” Wrong, said church leaders, revealing their own anti-Semitism. The violence was a “legitimate outlet” for the “resentments at what the Jewish-dominated press, stock exchange and theater have done to us.” German Protestants were so staunchly pro-Hitler that one renegade church newspaper bravely published a vision of a worship service of the future: Standing at the altar, a minister tells anyone not 100 percent Aryan to leave the church. No one moves. He repeats the announcement. Again, everyone is still. When the minister repeats it again, Christ climbs down from the cross over the altar and walks out the door. Even Jesus was disgusted with German Christians.

In Berlin, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer unrelentingly preached against the Nazis, arguing that helping Jews was a matter of theological necessity: Jews and Christians were united in the person of Jesus Christ. Eventually, Bonhoeffer warned, the Lord will “judge, condemn, and topple into the dust” anyone who worshipped the clay idols of the Nazis. After great agonizing, Bonhoeffer decided that loving his neighbor meant killing Hitler. Jailed for the botched July 20, 1944, attempt, Bonhoeffer accepted his guilt while lamenting the moral bankruptcy of the church. The Nazis hanged Bonhoeffer two weeks before the war ended.

– See more at: http://thedailyworld.com/opinion/columnist/fight-trump-spiritually#sthash.jHGCeXyi.dpuf

 

Earlier this month, I post that on June 17, 1940 (the day France surrendered to Germany), Dietrich Bonhoeffer was with his close friend Eberhard Bethge “in the Baltic village of Memel. They were relaxing in an “open-air café when suddenly a special announcement came over the loudspeaker that France had surrendered. Bethge wrote:

The people around the tables could hardly contain themselves; they jumped up, and some even climbed on the chairs. With outstretched arms, they sang “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles” and the Horse Wessel song. We stood up, too Bonhoeffer raised his arm in the regulation Hitler salute, while I stood there dazed. “Raise your arm! Are you crazy?” he whispered to me, and later: “We shall have to run risks for very different things now, but not for that salute!”  

This was a turning point for DB! Bethge “asserts that Bonhoeffer’s ‘double life’ truly began. This Confessing Church pastor and theologian became deeply involved in the resistance movement against Hitler and the Nazis.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 16: Conspiracy and Imprisonment 1940-1945, 1-2.

Wow! I have had numerous discussions with people over the years about why a Christian like Bonhoeffer could take an active role in the resistance. Many are troubled because Jesus said to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43).

I have struggled other it was well. Yet, we were not there. DB was! And somehow, he joined the resistance to stop a mad-man from murdering innocent people. Somehow, DB reconciled being a disciple of Jesus and plotting to kill Hitler.

Last Days of the Nazis

Last Days of the Nazis is a story that’s rarely been broadcast on television before. This is a dark and compelling history of Nazism from a different perspective – that of the Nazis themselves. In 1945, the Allies rounded up and interrogated thousands of ex-Nazis. The interrogations became a fascinating, but largely forgotten, part of the historical record. The Last Days of the Nazis uses these interrogations to dramatically bring to life accounts by Nazi death camp commandants, Nazi doctors, generals, architects, and members of the Hitler Youth. It is an inside look at the minds and motivations of the most evil regime in history. This is what the enemy told us.

Last Sunday in church we sang Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen.” What a moving experience, to sing these words which Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi concentration camp. His words, originally a poem to greet the new Year of 1945, were later put to music. Just months after composing this joyful, confident hymn, Bonhoeffer was hanged by Nazis.

The poem reads:

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben,
behütet und getröstet wunderbar,
so will ich diese Tage mit euch leben
und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr.

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last,
ach, Herr, gib unsern aufgescheuchten Seelen
das Heil, für das Du uns bereitet hast.

Und reichst Du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern
des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand,
so nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern
aus Deiner guten und geliebten Hand.

Doch willst Du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
an dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
dann wolln wir des Vergangenen gedenken,
und dann gehört Dir unser Leben ganz.

Laß warm und still die Kerzen heute flammen,
die Du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht,
führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen.
Wir wissen es, Dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
so laß uns hören jenen vollen Klang
der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
all Deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen,
erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist mit uns am Abend und am Morgen
und ganz gewiß an jedem neuen Tag

One English version of the poem reads:

By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
and confidently waiting, come what may,
we know that God is with us night and morning,
and never fails to greet us each new day.

Yet is this heart by its old foe tormented,
still evil days bring burdens hard to bear;
O give our frightened souls the sure salvation
for which, O Lord, you taught us to prepare.

And when this cup you give is filled to brimming
with bitter sorrow, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling,
out of so good and so beloved a hand.

Yet when again in this same world you give us
the joy we had, the brightness of your sun,
we shall remember all the days we lived through,
and our whole life shall then be yours alone.

For the rest of the post…

 

The Third Reich, 1933-1945, was arguably the most heinous regime in history. Comprised of some equally malevolent characters, this administration was responsible for initiating the biggest and most costly war mankind has ever known, and perpetrated one of the worlds biggest acts of genocide, in what is now referred to as the Holocaust. This list could have been bigger but I settled on these 15 (mostly) NSDAP members.

#15 – Hermann Goering

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A WW1 veteran, the Reichsmarschall was head of the luftwaffe, and the founder of the gestapo. After the fall of France he stole millions of pounds worth of art from Jews, and amassed a personal fortune. Goering took part in the beer hall putsch of 1923 and was wounded in the groin. Subsequently, taking morphine for pain relief, he became addicted to the drug for the rest of his life. In 1940, the Marshal ordered the bombing of the civilian population of Britain (the Blitz) and was involved in planning the holocaust. Goering was the highest ranking defendant during the Nuremberg Trials. Sentenced to hang, he committed suicide in his cell the night before his execution by cyanide ingestion.

 

 

 

 

#14 – Ilse Koch

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Known as The “Bitch of Buchenwald” because of her sadistic cruelty towards prisoners, Ilse Koch was married to another wicked Nazi SS, Karl Otto Koch, but outshone him in the depraved, inhumane, disregard for life which was her trademark. She used her sexual prowess by wandering around the camps naked, with a whip, and if any man so much as glanced at her she would have them shot on the spot. The most infamous accusation against Ilse Koch was that she had selected inmates with interesting tattoos to be killed, so that their skins could be made into lampshades for her home (though, unfortunately, no evidence of these lampshades has been found). After the war she was arrested and spent time in prison on different charges, eventually hanging herself in her cell in 1967, apparently consumed by guilt.

 

#13 – Joseph Goebbels

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Dr. Paul Josef Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda, and a vehement antisemite. Goebbels speeches of hatred against Jews arguably initiated the final solution, and no doubt helped sway public opinion to the detriment of the Jewish people. A sufferer of polio, Goebbels had a club foot, but this did not effect his standing as the second best orator in The Reich. He coined the phrase “Total War”, and was instrumental in convincing the nation to fight long after the war was effectively lost. At the end of the war, a devoted Goebbels stayed in Berlin with Hitler and killed himself, along with his wife Magda and their six young children.

 

 

 

 

#12 – Franz Stangl

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Born in Austria, Stangl was a commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps. In 1940, through a direct order from Heinrich Himmler, Stangl became superintendent of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at the Euthanasia Institute at Schloss Hartheim where mentally and physically disabled people were sent to be killed. Stangl accepted, and grew accustomed to the killing of Jews , perceiving prisoners not as humans but merely as “cargo”. He is quoted as saying, “I remember standing there, next to the pits full of black-blue corpses…. somebody said ‘What shall we do with rotting garbage?’ that started me thinking of them as cargo. Stangl escaped Germany after the war and was eventually arrested in Brazil, in 1967. He was tried for the deaths of around 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings, but argued: “My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty”. He died of heart failure in 1971, while serving a life sentence.

 

 

#11 – Paul Blobel

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During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he commanded Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C, that was active in Ukraine. Following Wehrmacht troops into Ukraine, the Einsatzgruppen would be responsible for liquidating political and racial undesirables. Blobel was primarily responsible for the Babi Yar massacre at Kiev. Up to 59,018 executions are attributable to Blobel, though during testimony he was alleged to have killed 10,000-15,000. He was later sentenced to death by the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunal in the Einsatzgruppen Trial. He was hanged at Landsberg Prison on June 8, 1951.

 

 

 

#10 – Josef Kramer

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Kramer was the Commandant of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Dubbed “The Beast of Belsen” by camp inmates; he was a notorious Nazi war criminal, directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Kramer adopted his own draconian policies at Auschwitz and Belsen and, along with Irma Grese, he terrorized his prisoners without remorse. After the war he was convicted of war crimes and hanged in Hameln prison by noted British executioner Albert Pierrepoint. Whilst on trial he stated his lack of feelings as he was “just following orders”.

 

 

 

 

#9 – Ernst Kaltenbrunner

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Austrian born Kaltenbrunner was chief of security in the Reich where he replaced Reinhard Heydrich. He was president of Interpol from 1943 to 1945, and was there to destroy the enemies within the Reich. Kaltenbrunner was a physically imposing man with scars on his cheeks, which made him look like the tyrant he really was. Kaltenbrunner was one of the main perpetrators of the holocaust and he was hanged after the Nuremberg trials on 16th October 1946. He was the highest ranked SS man to be hanged.

 

 

 

 

 

#8 – Friedrich Jeckeln

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Jeckeln led one of the largest collections of Einsatzgruppen, and was personally responsible for ordering the deaths of over 100,000 Jews, Slavs, Roma, and other “undesirables” of the Third Reich, in the occupied Soviet Union during World War II. Jeckeln developed his own methods to kill large numbers of people, which became known as the “Jeckeln System” during the Rumbula, Babi Yar, and Kamianets-Podilskyi Massacres. After the war he was tried and hanged by the Russian,s in Riga on February 3, 1946.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#7 – Oskar Dirlewanger

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WW1 veteran Dr. Oskar Dirlewanger led the infamous SS Dirlewanger Brigade, a penal battalion comprised of the sickest most vicious criminals in the Riech. Dirlwanger raped two 13 year old girls on separate occasions in the 1930s, and lost his Dr. title after being imprisoned, only to have it reinstated after his bravery Fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He volunteered for the SS at the start of WW2, and was given his own battalion due to his excellent soldiery, Dirlewanger’s unit was employed in operations against partisans in the occupied Soviet Union, but he and his soldiers are widely believed to have tortured, raped and murdered civilians (including children) and he allegedly fed female hostages strychnine in order to entertain his soldiers whilst they died in agony. Dirlewanger was captured by the French in a hospital after being injured at the front as he had always led his soldiers into battle. The French handed him over to the Polish, who locked him up and beat and tortured him over the next few days. He died from injuries inflicted by the Polish guards around June 5, 1945.

 

 

 

For the rest of the post…

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