Posts Tagged ‘Breslau’

The Prussian Confessional Church’s Denunciation of Nazi Genocide

March 20, 2019

One of the scandals of the Nazi regime was that the churches, who should have led the opposition to Nazism, did far too little to resist. And quite often the resistance that was offered was simply to preserve their own freedom against the demands and attempts at coordination by the Nazi state. Nevertheless, there were many heroic Christian clergy and lay people, who did resist Nazism, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who declared Hitler the Anti-Christ. 400 Lutheran pastors paid for their opposition by being murdered in Buchenwald concentration camp. The Nazis also devised a special emblem to be worn by Christian opponents of Nazis – Bibelforscher, ‘Bible Students’, as they were dubbed. This was a purple triangle, like the pink triangle worn by gay men and the black triangle of the ‘asocial’ and ‘workshy’. Most of those interned were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to accept Hitler as a ‘secular messiah’.

In June 1936 the Confessional Church – a Lutheran organisation that had split off from the official National Church – issued the Barmen Memorandum attacking not only Nazi anti-clericalism, but also Nazi ideology, racial anti-Semitism, the perverted judicial system and the concentration camps. Some of those who signed it, including the head of the Confessional Church Friedrich Weissler, were imprisoned and executed. Seven years later, in October 1943, the Prussian Confessional Synod at Breslau denounced the Nazi extermination policy as unchristian. They declared

Concepts such as “rooting out”, “liquidation” and “unworthy life” are not known to the Divine order. The extermination of people solely because they are related to a criminal, or old or mentally disturbed or belong to an alien race is not a sword to be wielded by the state.’ This included ‘the life of the people of Israel’. Moreover, claiming that you were merely acting on orders was no defence: ‘We cannot permit superiors to relieve us of our responsibility before God.’

See: Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship (Harmondsworth: Penguin 197) 477.

D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) 76.

James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton Books 1987) 88.

I’m putting this up because the extreme Right in America and Europe is trying to justify its demands for the persecution of Muslims and their forcible removal or mass murder as the necessary defence of Europe’s Judaeo-Christian and secular, enlightenment heritage. The Nazis despise the Enlightenment and its doctrines of tolerance, humanity and the brotherhood of nations, which should serve as a warning to anyone who believes they can adopt their policies to defend it. And while many Nazis were Christians, and were supported by anti-Semites within the churches and wider German and European society, others like Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis official ideologue, and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, were fervently anti-Christian. Hitler himself was a pantheist. He had been raised a Catholic, but had very much turned against his upbringing. In his Table Talk he freely describes how unimpressed he was with his RE teacher at school, how since he was 12 years old he wanted to blow the Catholic mass up with dynamite, and how the Reich should found astronomical observatories all over Germany as part of a campaign to destroy Christianity. And one of the reasons the mainstream churches are uniting with Muslims to denounce the massacre in New Zealand is because of memories of the Third Reich, and the churches’ collaboration with the Nazis, as well as other atrocities committed through history in the name of religion.

The Barmen Memorandum and the 1943 condemnation of Nazism by the Breslau Confessional Church not just condemn Nazism, but also anyone else who seeks to exterminate other innocent people simply because they are of a different race or ethnicity. And that includes modern Western racial terrorists of the Nazi, Alt Right, or racial populist fringe, such as New Zealand murderer.  

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Germany, the Rise of the Nazis and the Commemoration of the

March 30, 2016

Terror Topography

I think yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world, or at least, Europe gathers to remember Hitler’s extermination of the Jews in the hope that the commemoration of this most appalling of atrocities will never be repeated. There was a piece about on the radio today, in which one woman pointed out that Hitler felt he could go ahead with it with impunity because the Allies in the First World War had made no move to prevent or protest against the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks. Hitler himself asked, ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’ And so the world remembers the Holocaust in order to prevent it ever recurring.

I’ve blogged a lot about Nazi crimes and atrocities in eastern Europe in the past few days. As I said, I’m not trying to stir up resentment against the Germans, but to show how authoritarian Britain and the other countries are going as our constitutional freedoms are sacrificed in the interests of national security and the surveillance state. I’ve also blogged about the Nazi persecution and mass-murder of the Slav peoples of eastern Europe, particularly because Fascism and the Far Right is also growing over there. No-one with any self-respect should have anything to do with any Fascist or Nazi party, and especially not the Slav peoples, such as Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Belorussians, Ukrainians and Russians. After the Nazis had conquered their countries, the Nazis intended to deport them from an area extending from part of Poland into the Ukraine and Russia. 30 million Slavs were to be slaughtered, and the rest were to work as slave labourers cultivating agricultural produce for their German masters. About seven million people were rounded up to work as slave labourers in Germany, while another seven were forced to work for the occupying Nazis in their countries. Himmler compared the process to the Western European occupation and colonisation of Africa. He declared that eastern Europe ‘was our Africa, and the Slavs are our negroes’.

I don’t believe that the rise of the Nazis was inevitable, or that it was the natural culmination of German history. Indeed, in the 19th century there was less anti-Semitism in Germany than in France or England, and some of the pseudo-scientific elements of Nazism – the perverted racial theory and eugenics, were part of the general intellectual climate in the West at the time. The Nazis boasted that they had invented nothing. They based their own eugenics legislation on contemporary American laws intended to prevent the biologically unfit from breeding, while their 19th century predecessors in the various anti-Semitic organisations also based their demands for legislation separating Jews and gentiles on American laws governing Chinese immigrant workers.

Nor did all Germans quietly acquiesce as the Nazis seized power. In the last democratic elections held before the Nazi seizure of power, the Nazis themselves only won 44% of the vote. They only gained a bare majority through their alliance with the Nationalists, who only polled 8%. And this was after a campaign of intimidation throughout Germany and the banning of the German Communist Party, the KPD. The mainstream German Socialist party, the SPD, continued to resist the Nazis until the very end. They only lost a single seat, and ended up with 120 in the German parliament. The Catholic Centre Party, another of the major pillars of the Weimar coalition governments, actually increased the number of seats they held by three to 73. In the end, however, it was only the SPD, which voted against the Enabling Act. Otto Wels read out the SPD’s gave the party’s farewells to the previous era of Human Rights and humanity and gave its good wishes to political prisoners and the enemies of the regime, who even then were being rounded up and put in the camps. The address’ conclusion ran:

At this historic hour, we German Social Democrats pledge ourselves to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and Socialism. No Enabling Law can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible. You yourself have declared your commitment to Socialism. The Socialist Law [of 1878] did not succeed in destroying Social Democracy. From this new persecution too German Social Democracy can draw new strength. We send greetings to the persecuted and oppressed. We greet our friends in the Reich. their steadfastness and loyalty deserve admiration. The courage with which they maintain their convictions and their unbroken confidence guarantee a brighter future.

There have been problems after the War with the persistence of Neo-Nazi groups, like the National Democratic Party and the German Republican Party. There has also been the injustice that many Nazis did escape and were not prosecuted for their crimes against humanity. And one of the complaints by some foreign writers was that the collective guilt about the Nazi past made many Germans unwilling to discuss it with their children, leaving some unprepared when they encountered it and its legacy.

On the other hand, the Germans have enacted legislation to protect democracy against the rise of totalitarianism. Under the terms of the Basic Law, the Grundgesetz, the only parties and political movements which are permitted are those which recognise the basic principles of democracy. And it has been invoked to ban neo-Nazi movements, most notably in the 1970s when it was used to outlaw the National Democrats. And there have been exhibitions and books discussing the Third Reich, its rule through fear and intimidation, and commemorating its victims.

One such is the book at the top of the page, Topographie des Terrors: Gestapo, SS und Reichssicherheitshauptamt auf dem >>Prinz-Albrecht-Gelaende<< Eine Dokumentation, ‘Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office at the >>Prinz-Albrech-Site<< A Documentation (Berlin: Verlag Wilmuth Arenhoevel 1988)'. This was published as part of an exhibition following negotiations about the redevelopment of the site and the commemoration of its past as the headquarters of the Nazi security organisations in 1979/80. Mike brought my copy of the book back with him when he went there with his old college.

The book has the following chapters:

Introduction.
1. Headquarters of the SS State: Addresses and Institutions.
2. History of that party of the City and the Building.
2.1 A quite district on the City’s Edge (1732-1880)
2.2 The Quarter’s Career.
2.3 Departure and Crisis

3. Institutions of Terror
3.1. The Reichsfuhrer of the SS and his Reich
3.2. Seizure of Power and Early Terror
3.3 The Secret State Police
3.4 The Reichfuhrer-SS’ Security Service
3.5 Reich Security’s Main Office
3.6 ‘House Prison’ and Political Prisoners (1933-39)
3.7 ‘Protection’.
3.8. Concentration Camps.

4. Persecution, Annihilation, Resistance
4.1 The Fate of the German Jews 1933-38.
4.2 The Fate of the German Jews 1939-45
4.3 The Fate of the Gypsies.
4.4. Nazi Rule in Europe – Poland
4.5 Nazi Rule in Europe – the Soviet Union
4.6 Nazi Rule in Europe – Other Countries
4.7 Political Resistance and ‘House Prison’ (193945)

5. From Destruction to Rediscovery
5.1 Bombs and Rubble
5.2 The First Year after the War.
5.3 History Made Invisible.
5.4 The Return of the Repressed.

6. Appendix
6.1 Bibliography
6.2. Abbreviations
6.3 Lists of Texts
6.4 Lists of Illustrations
6.5 Register of Names.

Among the illustrations are the following pictures of the Reich’s atrocities.

Concentration Camp Labour

Forced labour at Neugamme Concentration Camp

Roll Call Sachsenhausen

Roll-call at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Deportation of Gypsies

Gypsies being deported.

Kaunas Pogrom

Pogrom initiated by members of Einsatzgruppe A in Kaunas/ Kowno.

In addition to the well-known opponents of the regime, many ordinary Germans also risked their lives to rescue the Jews. Some 5,000 Jews survived in Berlin after being hidden by gentile friends and neighbours. One Jewish woman left this memoir of how she was hidden by a Germany lawyer.

I was constantly sent for by the Gestapo. In 1942 these interrogation sessions became even more threatening and therefore went underground. In the middle of May 1942 I went to Silesia and stayed in several places without officially registering myself. I lived in Breslau, Gleiwitz, Hindenburg, in the countryside and Spahlitz (in the district of Oels). It was here that I remained hidden for months at the house of a German lawyer … (Later after I was arrested this brave amn had another Jewish woman hidden in his house)…

(Wiener Library, Eye Witness Accounts, PIIc, no. 153. In D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) p. 95.

The horrors of the Third Reich need to be remembered, but so too does the heroism of the people, who did their level best to stop, and at least save those they could from its barbarism.