On August 4, 2015, Eugene’s Register-Guard printed the following letter to the editor. The letter was written and submitted by Dr. LeRoy Lane, NCU professor emeritus of communication & logic.
Several days back, I heard a Christian pastor, a regular Fox contributor, speak on Fox News; he spoke about the savage treatment of Christians by terrorist groups in many parts of the world; he criticized Christians in America for responding to these atrocities with inactive silence, as Christians did in Nazi Germany, when Hitler’s gang deported Jews to death camps.
I appreciated most of what this passionate pastor said—Christians should speak up and call for action against evil forces targeting Christians in various countries, but I found the analogy he used in developing his argument invalid—although likely most people would share his mistaken belief that Christians in Nazi Germany were inactively silent. This is definitely not the case.
Many Christians expressed their opposition to Hitler’s inhumane Third Reich, often paying for their defiance by a sentence to a concentration camp that promised brutality and little chance of survival. Pastor Martin Niemöller spoke for Germany’s Christians when he declared, “Not you, Herr Hitler, but God is my Führer!”
In a December, 1940 issue of Time, we read: “So this second Christmas of Hitler’s war finds Niemöller and upwards of 200,000 other Christians (some estimates run as high as 800,000) behind the barbed wire of the frozen Nazi concentration camps.”
The same issue of Time observed, the “best tribute to the spirit of Germany’s Christians comes from a Jew and agnostic—the world’s most famous scientist, Albert Einstein.” The magazine then quoted Einstein as saying, “Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”
The Time story concluded, “Though the Nazis have jailed over 10,000 pastors, priests and monks and an unknown number have been beaten to death, church congregations have grown markedly. Sales of the Bible have shot up from 830,000 copies in 1933 to 1,225,000 in 1939.”
We should bear in mind, too, that countless Christian families, at their peril, hid Jewish children and Jewish families from the Nazis. Anne Frank tells in her famous diary how such a family hid her family and one other Jewish family in their basement, until, sadly, they were discovered by the Gestapo, which marked them for extermination in a concentration camp.
Another Christian family that hid Jews from the Gestapo is described by Corrie Ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place—she also spent years in a concentration camp, where her father and sister died. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian families rescued Jews, families about whom we know little or nothing.
A number of years ago, Lester, a friend and colleague, traveled to Germany and visited some major cities; on a visit to Munich, Lester saw nearby Dachau concentration camp. Near the camp was a tiny chapel, which my friend entered and met there an elderly gentleman, who told him this story: “I come here to remember my son. He was a priest, who preached sermons calling Adolf Hitler evil. So, they sent him to Dachau. They permitted him to bring one book. He chose the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. With these Old Testament books, he planned to minister to the Jews, reading scripture to bring them comfort. But, when the guards at the camp found out, they beat him and withheld food from him, so that he died very soon. They thought they took his life, but they freed him to have a wonderful life with God.”
Some of us know the story of the courageous German Protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who left the safety of America to return to Germany to work with others to overthrow Hitler. Arrested by the Gestapo, he and fellow conspirators were sent to a concentration camp. There, Rev. Bonhoeffer ministered to other inmates for two years, when, by order of Hitler, in 1945, he was hanged. He lived what he taught that Christ should inspire us to be suffering servants with total commitment of self to others.
There were many Christians who had no voice, wrote no word, made known no action in the darkness of Nazi Germany—their good works should not be forgotten.
Dr. LeRoy Lane is the author of ‘By All Means Communicate’. He wrote the pioneering article on biological rhythms and communicative behavior and served as head of communication departments at Columbia Basin Community College, George Fox University, and Northwest Christian College, where he received the distinguished title as professor emeritus. Dr. Lane earned his M.A. in speech education at Willamette University, where he received the Phi Delta Kappa award as “Outstanding Student in Teacher Education.” He holds a Ph.D. in communication and rhetoric from the University of Oregon; while there, he was selected to present a paper to the Doctoral Honors Seminar in Communication Theory at Michigan State University. At the University of Washington he studied history, journalism, linguistics, and classical rhetoric. He has taught persuasion, public speaking, nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, organizational communication, argumentation, and logic. Dr. Lane is listed in ‘Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers’.