Sunday, July 26, 2015

December 15, 1939: Spectator Reports

Article in College Newspaper, The Spectator, on talk given by Opa


Tom Doeppner Tells of German Religion
Says German Goverment Must Be Obeyed the Same as God

A large group of students heard Tom Doeppner speak on the subject, "Religion in Germany", at the S.C.M. meeting Thursday evening, December 7.

Doeppner, a student from Germany, pictured religion before and after Hitler, weaving into his talk the condition of the personal liberty of the German people. The largest religious group in Germany today is the Protestant Church, which is one united group rather than many sects. Two thirds of the Christians in Germany are Protestant and one third are Catholic.

German Christians believe that God is the ruling-power and in turn that the German race rules over all other races. The German government, therefore, must be obeyed the same as God must be obeyed- even to the killing of one's own family if such be required.

There are approximately 600,000 Jews in Germany now. An important reason for the persecution of the Jews in Germany today is that they are the race who killed Jesus. All Jewish synagogues have been burned. They continue, however, to worship in their various homes.

The Quakers, the Mennonites, and a few other small religious groups have been able to maintain their meetings because they are considered too few to be of any great importance and then, too, "they have always been peaceable. Mr. Doeppner belonged in a Quaker group in Berlin. Regular meetings are held and they remain almost utterly undisturbed.

Ronald Orr sang a solo, "The Stranger of Galilee": Vena Flory played the piano.

Opa arrived in McPherson College in mid-November. He was giving a talk on German religion for the S.C.M. (Student Christian Movement) on December 7th, two weeks after his arrival.

Remember that Opa's English was not stellar, and he suffered from a stutter that was not severe, but enough to make a speech a little nerve-wracking.

I hope that it went well, he certainly earned some kudos for attempting it. I imagine Opa enjoyed the extra attention he got for being the exotic foreign student with all the news. He was used to being around plenty of informed folks, and now he was the worldly one, the informed one, the mysterious and exciting one. I mean, he may have been through a lot, but he's still a nineteen year old boy. I bet he kinda loved being in the spotlight. 

I'm wondering just how accurate Opa's assessment of German religion is. I am actually a bit of a religious scholar (I use that term lightly as I have peers who are professors in religion- but technically we took the same classes- they just took more and kept studying the stuff). The Protestant and Catholic churches were mostly passive to Hitler's regime, which is part of the horror of the holocaust, that so many religious groups stood by idly. However, there were also the outliers. Bonhoeffer and other German theologians and Christians were active in their fight against Hitler and his regime. I think on the whole, Opa is right: the Christian faith in Germany felt more like an instrument of the government than a separate institution of its own authority. The moment that the church became a threat or nuisance, the government would have thrown it out. The Nazi regime was not really based on a faith or religious foundation- it was inherently a-theistic. (Without any concern about God.) 

The Quakers were left alone because they were small, yes, but also because they were remembered as the group that helped feed thousands of Germans after WWI in the soup kitchens- regardless of politics, faith, race, status. The Quakers saved families from starving, and so they were seen as benevolent and no threat to the Nazis. 

The Jews were disliked by the Nazis and Hitler for God knows what specific reasons. The reason why the churches (Protestant and Catholic) didn't squirm as much as they should have with the anti-semitism, is because the churches had generations of anti-semitic messages built within its rituals, liturgy, and common understanding. Hitler didn't care so much about the Jews being the responsible race for Jesus' death, but in the life of the church, this was a common understanding. In fact, there is still movement within churches to change the language of their creeds and doctrines to separate the death of Jesus from blame on Jewish people. (People tend to forget that Jesus and most of his friends were Jewish.) The church has made strides, but in the time when Hitler was in power, his anti-semitism hit an easy target with the Christian church. They kinda didn't like the Jews all that much either. It made it a little easier for them to claim ignorance and remain apathetic about the plight of the Jews.

I couldn't help but look at that number mentioned: 600,000 Jews in Germany. Could anyone have fathomed that in six years time, you would add a zero to that figure and that would be the number of Jews exterminated in the war?

Opa has begun his duty as an ambassador to the United States of news and information concerning the plight of Germans under Nazi rule. He has hit the ground running.

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