The Dutch Churches protest.

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I can’t deny the fact that the Dutch could have done more during WWII, and esepcially in relation to helping their Jewish fellow citizens.

But on the other hand it is easy for me to judge because I was never put in a situation where I had to choose between aiding a neighbor with a good chance of being harshly punished for it , or turning a blind eye.

There were however time where the Dutch openly spoke out against their occupiers, and as an unintended consequence, at least I believe it was, it brought the several Christian communities together.

Below is an English translation of a letter signed by the majority of all the Dutch churches which was published as a collective protest against the treatment of the country’s Jews:

“The undersigned Dutch Churches, already deeply shocked by the measures against the Jews in the Netherlands, which exclude them from participation in normal public life, were horrified to learn of new measures under which men, women, and children and entire families shall be deported to Reich territory and territories under Reich control. The suffering that this will inflict on tens of thousands, the knowledge that these measures are repugnant to the deepest moral consciousness of the Dutch people, and, above all, the violation inherent in these measures of the law and justice laid down by God, compel the Churches to address to you the most urgent plea not to implement these measures.

On behalf of the Christians among the Jews this urgent plea is enjoined on us by the additional consideration that by these measures they will be cut off from participation in the life of the Church.

The Dutch Reformed Church;

The Archbishop and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands;

The Calvinist Churches in the Netherlands;

The General Mennonite Sect;

The Remonstrant Brotherhood;

The Old Reformed Church in the Netherlands;

The Reformed Sect in the Netherlands;

The Evangelist Lutheran Church in the Netherlands;

The New Evangelist Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.””

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I am not sure when the letter was published but it must have been late 1940 or early 1941. It is good to note that any form of protest could lead to the death penalty.

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Sources

Protest of the Dutch Churches, during World War II, quoted in The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933-1945, by Gerhard Schoenberner, at page 132. Online, courtesy Google Books.

Karl Friedrich Stellbrink-Lübeck martyr.

Martyr

Karl Friedrich Stellbrink was one of the 4 Lübeck Martyrs.I could have done a blog on all 4 but the reason why I chose Stelbrink is three fold.

  1. He was the only non Catholic clergy man of the 4.
  2. He was the first to be arrested.
  3. His wife was also victimized.

All four men were executed by beheading on 10 November 1943 less than 3 minutes apart from each other at Hamburg’s Holstenglacis.

The men all opposed the Nazi regime.

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The four priests spoke publicly against the Nazis – at the start discreetly like distributing pamphlets to friends and congregants. Later they copied and distributed the anti-Nazi sermons of the Catholic Bishop August von Galen.

Stellbrink had joined the Nazi party but he soon realized their warped ideology,and its incompatibility with his Christian teaching.He declined to break off his friendship with his Jewish friends and in 1937 he left the party.

In his sermon on Palm Sunday, March 29,1942 he uttered the following words “In the misery of our home city we hear God’s voice” The previous night the city was bombed by the allied forces,killing more then 300 people. His sermon was interpreted as a divine punishment by God on the Nazi regime.He was arrested just over a week later on April 7, 1942.

On 22 and 23 June 1943 he and the other 3 men were put on trial. They were all sentenced to death. On November 10 ,1943 they were all beheaded within a few minutes of each other.

After his death, Stellbrink’s widow was billed for his court costs, imprisonment, and execution.

Lubeck

There is no doubt that the Christian churches should have done more, but their paralysis was caused by fear, the world had not witnesses such evil before. Although their inaction is in one way understandable it is still no excuse.

However often people forget that on an individual level there were many Christians that helped save the lives of Jews and others, by putting their own lives at risk.

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The Aryan Jesus.

Church

The Christian churches in the third reich and also outside the third reich had 3 approaches to the Nazis policies.

  1. They rejected the policies and actively resisted it.Churches like Confessing Church. and men like Dietrich Bonnhoefer. Or the catholic priest Hugh O’Flaherty resisted the Nazis and their ideologies and actively resisted the Nazi regime.
  2. They were indifferent and turned a blind eye to what was happening around them, often in plain sight. They just lived their lives as if nothing happened.
  3. They endorsed the Nazi ideology.Movements like “the German Christians” aligned themselves  towards the antisemitic, racist and Führerprinzip( leader principle, the notion that some “gifted individuals” were destined to rule, the term was first coined by philosopher Hermann von Keyserling)  ideological principles of NazismDC

As a Christian myself I am especially ashamed of the last 2 groups, and although the indifference of the 2nd group can partially be explained that the indifference was borne out of fear, it doesn’t make it better. Although it is often misquoted it is appropriate in this context ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’

The 3rd group were plainly as evil as the Nazis themselves, they may not have been involved in actual killings but they created an atmosphere which made it look okay to kill Jews.

In 1939 with the majority of  the German Protestant churches agreeing to it, the Eisenacher “Institute for Research and the Elimination of Jewish influence on German Church Life” was founded, led by Walter Grundmann.It was officially opened in the Wartburg in Eisenach on May 6, 1939.

institute

One of the institutes  main tasks was to compile a “People’s Testament” in the sense of what Alfred Rosenberg called a “Fifth Gospel”, to announce the myth of the “Aryan Jesus”.

The institute produced a “dejewified” New Testament entitled “Die Botschaft Gottes” (God’s Message), in which all references to the Old Testament were deleted in 1941. The catechism “Deutsche mit Gott” (Germans with God), which included a revised version of the Ten Commandments, was published that same year.

Removing all Jewish references from the bible and portraying Jesus as a Nordic Aryan figure of course made it easier for some people to solve an internal conflict they may have had  in mistreating their Jewish neighbors.

Georg Bertram, professor of New Testament at the University of Giessen, who was the head of the Institute from 1943 until the Institute’s dissolution in May 1945, wrote about its goals in March 1944: “‘This war is Jewry’s war against Europe.

Whereas nearly the entire Protestant and Catholic church bore a share of responsibility for the crimes against  the Jews by remaining silent about the Nuremberg Laws and the Kristall Nacht and other pogroms  as well as officially helping issue “certificates of Aryan descent”, the institute in Eisenach was guilty of complicity in the Holocaust.

Even though It is a hard truth for me as a Christian to face , a truth it is nevertheless.

altar

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Good Friday-The other 2 crucifictions

rezhim_razboynika

Like most of my blogs I try to steer away from politics and religion this blog will be no exception to that.Although it may appear to be a religious blog, i is really about the historical event of the crucifixion.

Good Friday is one of the key days in the Christian calendar, it is the day where Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross. However he was not alone that day. There were 2 other men next to him on Golgotha.

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Dismas and Gestas are the names often mentioned as the two thieves crucified on crosses to the right and left of Jesus. In the New Testament accounts of the crucifixion, two men are mentioned, yet their names are never given. The names Dismas and Gestas do not come from the New Testament, but are taken from a pseudepigraphal book not included in the New Testament canon. As a result, whether Dismas and Gestas were the true names of the two men crucified at the time of Jesus is unknown.

The names Dismas and Gestas are first found in the apocryphal writing entitled “The Gospel of Nicodemus” that historians typically agree was written in the 4th century. Since this document was written over two centuries after the events and is found in a book containing other disputable information, few argue that much certainty can be attached the these two specific names.

Finally, it should be mentioned that Dismas (sometimes spelled Dysmas) was the name associated with the good thief who asked Jesus to remember him in paradise, while Gestas was the one who taunted Jesus along with the crowd.

I am a Christian but I think this blog will appeal to anyone who has an interest in history, for whether you believe in Jesus or not, fact is he is a pivotal historical figure.

Cavalry

 

 

 

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Sources

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The forgotten victims of Dachau-The Christian Clergy.

800px-ZawistowskiAntoni

(picture above:The Blessed Antoni Zawistowski was tortured and died at Dachau in 1942,courtesy Falco van Delft)

Dachau became the camp where 2,720 clergymen were sent, including 2,579 Catholic Priests. The priests at Dachau were separated from the other prisoners and housed together in several barrack buildings in the rear of the camp. There were 1,780 Polish priests and 447 German priests at Dachau. Of the 1,034 priests who died in the camp, 868 were Polish and 94 were German.(Source: “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?” by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler)

Other clergymen at Dachau included 109 Protestant ministers, 22 Greek Orthodox, 2 Muslims and 8 men who were classified as “Old Catholic and Mariaists.”

Bunker07

Many clergy were imprisoned at Dachau. The first Churchman arrived at Dachau in 1935, but from 1940, Dachau became the concentration point for clerical prisoners of the Nazi regime.

 

According to Ronald Rychlak( an American lawyer, jurist, author and political commentator) the clergy prisoners were treated marginally better than other prisoners, however treatment worsened in the wake of Papal or episcopal announcements critical of the Nazi regime, such as Pope Pius XII’s 1942 Christmas address.

FILE PHOTO OF POPE PIUS XII

One Easter, the guards marked Good Friday by torturing 60 priests. Tying their hands behind their backs, chaining their wrists, and hoisting them up by the chains – tearing joints apart and killing and disabling several of the priests. The threat of further torture was used to keep the priests obedient. Food was so lacking, that prisoners would retrieve scraps from the compost pile.

The Nazis introduced a racial hierarchy – keeping Poles in harsh conditions, while favouring German priests. 697 Poles arrived in December 1941, and a further 500 of mainly elderly clergy were brought in October the following year. Inadequately clothed for the bitter cold, of this group only 82 survived. A large number of Polish priests were chosen for Nazi medical experiments. In November 1942, 20 were given phlegmons. 120 were used by Dr Schilling for malaria experiments between July 1942 and May 1944.

Klaus_SCHILLING_arzt_KZ_dachauSeveral Poles met their deaths with the “invalid trains” sent out from the camp, others were liquidated in the camp and given bogus death certificates. Some died of cruel punishment for misdemeanors – beaten to death or run to exhaustion.

Polish priests were not permitted religious activity. Anti-religious prisoners were planted in the Polish block to watch that the rule was not broken, but some found ways to circumvent the prohibition: clandestinely celebrating the mass on their work details. By 1944, conditions had been relaxed and Poles could hold a weekly service. Eventually, they were allowed to attend the chapel, with Germany’s hopes of victory in the war fading.

Amid the Nazi persecution of the Tirolian Catholics, the Blessed Otto Neururer, a parish priest was sent to Dachau for “slander to the detriment of German marriage”, after he advised a girl against marrying the friend of a senior Nazi. He was cruelly executed at Buchenwald in 1940 for conducting a baptism there. He was the first priest killed in the concentration camps

Otto_Neururer

Father Hermann Scheipers was saved from the gas chamber by his twin sister on 13th August 1942. After a secret meeting with her brother in Dachau she made a private visit to the civil servants in the Central Reich Security Office in Berlin who were responsible for the imprisoned priests. Following a dramatic conversation she received a promise from the civil servants that her brother would not be gassed. This promise also applied to all the other priests. Indeed, from that moment on, no priests were sent to the gas chamber. Thus Anna Scheipers not only saved her brother’s life but those of more than 500 other priests.

 

In Dachau Scheipers constantly witnessed the cruel treatment and deadly human experiments on the prisoners. Many of them were immersed in cold water to test the limits of hypothermia. The experiments were needed in order to develop special clothing for the Armed Forces. According to Scheipers: “All of them died when their body temperature sank to 27°. Only one Russian held out to 17°”. Nonetheless Scheipers’ faith and reinforced inner conviction prevented his feelings from being deadened. Indeed the opposite was true. He remained constantly full of hope and gave aid to his co-prisoners, in particular the Polish priests, wherever he could. He also began to take an interest in the Russian language.

Scheipers said  at one stage his “death certificate” was signed when he was feeling faint during a role  call session one morning in 1942, because he had become “completely exhausted from all the work” in the camp, not because he was sick.

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