When Christians Rose Up Courageously In Nazi Germany

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Article #360

by Bill Nugent

 

What are Christians to do when a gang of murderers and thieves takes over the government of their country? History tells us that many in the church stood up to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The conservative Protestant church was one of the few entities that defied Hitler. This gives us extremely important insights on how to deal with the political and cultural circumstances that face us today.

 

The Nazis won many seats in the Reichstag in elections in July and November 1932. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenberg. Hindenburg didn’t want to appoint Hitler but he was pressured to do so.

 

Soon after, in March of 1933, the Nazi party won many seats in the national election to obtain the largest number of seats of any party in the Reichstag. Hitler used this leverage to pass the Enabling Act which gave him dictatorial powers.

 

An early priority of the new Nazi government was the nazification of the Protestant churches. The Nazis established the German Christian Movement which claimed that Christianity is an Aryan religion free from all Jewish influence. It had millions of followers, including many theologians and denominational Church leaders.

 

Many theologically conservative Christians stood up to the Nazis very bravely during those years. Two principal leaders arose. One was the famous neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968). The other was the prominent and controversial pastor, Martin Niemoller (1892-1984). They convened a synod at the city of Barmen in May 1934.

 

This synod of theologians, bishops and pastors issued the bold and decisive Barmen Declaration. Karl Barth wrote most of the content of the Barmen Declaration and Niemoller provided organizational support for the synod.  The document gave six points of biblical doctrine and proclaims Jesus Christ alone as Lord of the church and denied Hitler as leader of the church. Karl Barth personally mailed a copy directly to Hitler.

 

Niemoller went on to found the Pastor’s Emergency League which defended Christians of Jewish ancestry. In 1936 Niemoller signed a petition against the Aryan Paragraph and other Nazi policies. For this, Niemoller was soon arrested along with 800 other churchmen and leaders. Niemoller was put on trial, convicted, given a light sentence and then re-arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen and later Dachau concentration camps where he suffered from 1938 to 1945.

 

The Nazis tried to force Karl Barth to sign a statement of allegiance to Hitler but he refused. Consequently Barth was deported to Switzerland because he was a Swiss citizen. Barth spent the war years as a professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland and he spoke out against the Nazis. Thousands of Christian leaders, pastors, Catholic priests, theologians and other outspoken activist Christians were arrested, persecuted and sent to concentration camps in 1936, 1937 and later years.

 

In Dachau, guards tortured sixty priests on a Good Friday. Andreas Reiser, a Catholic priest from Austria, was forced to wear barbed wire as a crown of thorns and carry planks in a mock crucifixion as Jewish prisoners were forced to spit on him. (Wikipedia)

 

What can we learn from their example of bravery? Christians, both Protestants and Catholics,  were among the few groups of people that bravely stood up against the Nazis. Many defended the Jewish people and are counted among the righteous gentiles. Do we see something similar to the Nazis in our own day? If so, how do we stand up against it?

 

It’s been said that totalitarianism is the principal governmental innovation of the 20th century. Totalitarianism is expressed in both fascism and communism. Fascism is national socialism. Communism is international socialism. How did totalitarianism arise? It’s not a flash in the pan. It was a logical extension of what what went before it.

 

To understand this we must look at the history of political philosophy. This will help us set the context for understanding fascism. We will also explore the philosophical basis for freedom. This will help us know how to throw off the shackles of total government.

 

If we scroll back the pages of history we see that totalitarianism arose out of a political philosophy grounded in rebellion against God. The secular political philosophy that gave rise to totalitarianism came out of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a philosophical era encompassing most of the 18th century, roughly 1710 to 1780.

 

The Enlightenment was a philosophical revolution. Actually there were two Enlightenments. One was the secular enlightenment led by the philosophers HumeKant and Voltaire. The other was the Christian enlightenment led by the Christian philosophers LockeMontesquieu and Burke. The secular Enlightenment ultimately led to the French revolution, communism and fascism. The Christian Enlightenment led to the American Revolution, freedom, human rights, free enterprise and capitalism.

 

American and British human rights and freedom came from the Christian Enlightenment. Continental Europe has tended to embrace the secular Enlightenment. Margaret Thatcher famously said: “The United Kingdom is quite the best country in Europe and I would remind our friends on the continent that the troubles that have beset humanity have largely come from the continent and the answers to these problems have come from the English speaking world” (paraphrase).

 

The Declaration of Independence of the United States is a revolutionary document which contains these words: “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” These words were written in 1776. Why couldn’t such words have been written in a political document centuries earlier, perhaps in 1476? For the answer, we have to look back even further in European history.

 

The words of equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence ultimately come from the Bible. In 1476 the Bible was chained to pulpits, written in Latin and unavailable to the people. Shortly after 1476 came the Protestant Reformation. The outflow of the Protestant Reformation brought about the availability of the Bible in the languages of the people. The Bible was accessible to all the people across the entire continent of Europe for the first time in history by the late 1500s and early 1600s.

 

Biblical literacy led to two revolutions in the period from 1600 to 1699. One revolution was the rise of modern science. The Bible provides the regularity principle which is the basic foundational axiom or principle of the scientific method. Francis Bacon, who was the formulator of the scientific method, thought and studied from a biblical worldview.

 

The regularity principle is derived from the Bible. It’s the claim that nature is guided by natural laws given by God and that nature is consistent or “regular” throughout all the world. This is the claim that nature is not random and chaotic as previous generations of scientists believed. This opened the door for scientific experimentation to form hypotheses and theories that led to scientific discovery. Chemistry went from alchemy to modern chemistry under Robert Boyle, a Bible believing Christian.

 

The other revolution of the 1600s was a major political revolution. This was also derived from the Bible. The Bible teaches that all men are equal before God. The Bible teaches that all men are sinners in need of redemption, hence they can’t be entrusted with too much power.

 

The Bible teaches that all Christians comprise a royal priesthood. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation” (I Peter 2:9).That’s not just the priesthood of the believer but also the royalty of the believer! This led to democracy in the American colonies because if we are all kings we have to have an election to determine which of the kings will hold the offices of government.

 

There was a counter-reformation in the 1500s and 1600s in which reactionary forces tried to snuff out the Protestant Reformation. There was a philosophical counter-reformation in the 1700s. This was the secular Enlightenment. There were atheist and agnostic philosophers such as DiderotHumeKant, and Voltaire who rejected biblical revelation and morals. This led to the French Revolution and its venomous outflow. The founding fathers of America rejected the secular Enlightenment and embraced the Christian Enlightenment of Locke, Montesquieu and Burke.

 

Flowing out of the secular Enlightenment was the rise of Romanticism in the 1800s. Romanticism was the return to nature with an emphasis on emotion and individualism. Secular romanticist philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche began to see man as just an animal evolved from apes. In this secular philosophy all men are not created equal but they are evolved unequally from apes with no souls. It brought about the rise of radical existentialism, social Darwinism and postmodernism. They denied the existence of absolute truth. This was a return to paganism. Paganism has little respect for human rights.

 

The postmodernists claim that truth is something that each person makes up in his own mind. They claim there’s no absolute morals. Each person and each civilization makes up their own morals. They claim laws are not given by God but by man. This was fertile ground for dictators and sociopaths of all stripes to dominate and to form totalitarian philosophies of government and to enact arbitrary laws and launch wars based on these principles.

 

The Nazi government of the 1930s was essentially a return to the style of government of 1476. In the 15th century, government was absolute monarchy. The king made all the laws. The hereditary dictatorship flourished because the Bible was completely suppressed.

 

The Bible was embraced in Germany during the Reformation but centuries later was rejected by Germany because of Darwinian evolution and the rise of secularism. The clock was turned back to medieval feudal despotism and Hitler became the new king in the German empire.

 

The totalitarian governments of 1476 Europe were despotic pagan style governments disguised in Christian garb and using terms like “the divine right of kings.” The religion of 1476 was medieval Catholicism which was essentially a paganized doctrine of works based salvation.  It was a paganized faith of earn-your-own-salvation-by-good-works disguised in Christian garb. European religion in those days was essentially a syncretized Christianity and paganism. The Protestant Reformation cast off the paganism and restored biblical principles.

 

Winston Churchill said he was fighting for the survival of Christian civilization. He was fighting for the preservation of the legacy of the Bible, the Protestant Reformation and the Christian Enlightenment. Christian civilization did survive, but barely.

 

Having looked at the roots of both freedom and totalitarianism, we see that the answer to the current trend towards total government is to restore the biblical concepts of the sacredness of human life, equality  and personal freedom under God. These concepts were articulated by the Christian Enlightenment philosophers, Locke, Montesquieu and Burke. It’s up to us to stand up against the authoritarianism of our own time in the same way Barth and others did in the 1930s.

 

We now have a new movement towards totalitarianism. They call it socialism but that’s just a euphemism for totalitarianism. They wish to impose total government control, total monitoring of people, silencing free speech and total destruction of the middle class to make humanity environmentally sustainable by vast reduction of consumption.

 

They aim to reduce world population. They aim to control world population by authoritarian and totalitarian means and they oppress Christianity and Christian ideas. They censor us by using social media companies. Sociopath billionaires are pouring immense wealth into electing corrupt totalitarian oriented politicians at all levels of government in the United States, Western Europe and all over the world.

 

What is our response to this? We’ve got to join together and stand up against the culture of death and the spirit of antichrist. We’ve got to proclaim our Bible based message by any and all means. We have to climb to the tops of the seven mountains of world influence.

 

We read our Bibles and we see that the church triumphs in the end. The book of Revelation makes it clear that Jesus Christ is coming again and He will set up his kingdom. Even now there’s great revival breaking out all across the world. The good news of salvation is being preached. There’s an abundance of signs, wonders and miracles. Dramatic healings are taking place; even raising the dead. Vast numbers of converts in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe are coming into the church.

 

Jesus Christ died for our sins. Jesus took the penalty of our sins upon Himself when He suffered and died upon the cross. Isaiah the prophet predicted this hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus Christ rose from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins to all who turn to him in repentance. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.

 

(C) 2022 William P. Nugent, Permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!



(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

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