Our nation’s founders were wise to question the involvement between organized religion and government. I find this to be a very unsettling quote: “Though it had many Catholic leaders (including Hitler), the Nazi Party relied heavily on Protestant support. Protestants had given the Party its principal backing during the years leading up to 1933 at a level disproportionate to their national majority. Evangelical youth was especially pro-Nazi. It has been estimated that as many as 90 percent of Protestant university theologians supported the Party. Indeed, the participation of so many respected Protestants gave an early, comforting air of legitimacy to the often-thuggish Party. So did the frequent sight of Sturmabteilung (S.A.) units marching in uniform to church.” from The Great Scandal: Christianity’s-role-in-the-rise-of-the-Nazi/.
The Concordat was a classic political kickback scheme. The church supported the new dictatorship by endorsing the end of democracy and free speech (the fourth estate, free press was attacked and destroyed). In addition it bound its bishops to Hitler’s Reich by means of a loyalty oath. In exchange the church received enormous tax income and protection for church privileges. Religious instruction and prayer in school were reinstated. Criticism of the church was forbidden. Of course, nothing in the Concordat protected the rights of non-Catholics.
Most extraordinary and telling is the Rosenstrasse incident. Some 30,000 Jews lived openly in Germany as the spouses of Christians. Nine in ten such marriages remained intact despite ceaseless harassment. Oriented toward family values as they were, the Nazis could not decide how to handle these Jews without violating the sanctity of marriage. Early in 1943, Goebbels, then in charge of Berlin, decided it was time to cleanse the capital by rounding up these last Jews. Hitler agreed. Some 2,000 Jewish men from mixed marriages were seized and taken to a large downtown building on the Rosenstrasse, from which they would be deported to the camps.
For a week their Gentile wives stood in the winter cold, chanting “We want our husbands back!” Ordinary Germans sometimes joined them. All told, the protests involved about 6,000 people. They continued in the face of S.S. and Gestapo threats, even threats to use machine guns. They continued though British bombers pounded the city by night. But the Nazis dared not fire upon these defenseless, unorganized Aryan women. Berliners saw the protests directly. Foreign diplomats spread word of it to the world press. The British Broadcasting Company broadcast the story back into Germany.
What was the outcome of Nazi Germany’s only mass demonstration to save Jews? The 2,000 Jewish husbands were released with Hitler’s approval (even in a dictatorship when the people hold the leadership accountable morality can win). Two dozen who had already been sent to Auschwitz were returned. Jewish-Christian couples continued to live openly and survived the war. They would comprise the great majority of German Jewish survivors.
Goebbels later commented to an associate that the regime relented “in order to eliminate the protest from the world, so that others didn’t begin to do the same.” Sadly, this strategy was successful: during the rest of the war, no similar action would ever be taken in defense of Jews in general.
When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, with the slogan ‘Wipe out the shame of Versailles’, Niemoller was wholly in agreement. (this slogan sounds a lot like “Make America Great again” my comment.) Niemoller is best known for this quote:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
One can only surmise he came to understand the foolishness of accepting at face value everything that was promised.
Bonhoeffer was one of the first Christians in the Confessing Church to recognize clearly the significance of the ‘Jewish question’ in Nazi Germany. As early as spring 1933 he pointed out that the Jews were becoming victims of the state’s policies – but his was a lone voice. He saw that the age-old policy of confrontation, which Christians had practiced towards the Jews from the Church Fathers through to Luther and later, had made Christians in Germany passive, blind and indifferent to the fate of the Jews. (is there a parallel to Moslem issues today)
Bonhoeffer wanted to awaken the church to the fact that a monstrous injustice was being done to the Jews, and that the place of Christians was alongside their persecuted Jewish brothers. He challenged Christians to regard the Jews as the ‘neighbour fallen among thieves’, as in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. He saw that the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, is part of the Christian Bible too; that Christians and Jews believe in the same God; that the Bible concept of ‘the people of God’ refers to both. But he could not persuade the Confessing Church to make a public statement on behalf of the Jews. As the Second World War progressed, the growing persecution of the Confessing Church by the Nazi authorities crippled the church’s ability to help others. http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-9/christians-against-nazis-german-confessing-church.html Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz
I see parallels in today’s political climate that are resoundingly like those of Germany in the 20’s and 30’s. I see a Christian right movement embracing a form of theocracy that could destroy the republic and ultimately shame the cause of Christ. I pray that the reality is I’m seeing monsters under the bed and I shall awake to normalcy, but Bonhoeffer never did, he and 70 million others.