David Kinderdine is a retired pastor and lives in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Those who have studied Hitler’s rise to power and the extermination of six million Jews should see the parallels to the events currently taking place in America today.
Step 1: Create A Villain
One of Hitler’s strategies was his plan to create nationalistic pride and a superior race. To support this goal, he needed to create a villain; he found his villain in the Jewish race. Between November 9th and 10th, 1938 the Nazis carried out a mission against the Jews while authorities looked on without intervention. This night became known as Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass”; on this night, Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked as paramilitary and civilians alike attacked and demolished 267 synagogues and over 7,000 Jewish businesses. As a result 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. The pretext for these attacks was the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a 17 year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris.
Step 2: Censorship
A second strategy used by Hitler was censorship. Censorship within the Nazi party included control of mass communication, which encompassed paper, literature, radio, and film. The Reich ministry of propaganda produced their own literature solely devoted to Nazi ideals; this literature was also very anti-Semitic.
Hitler knew if he isolated people and created his own narrative, he could control his opposition. He used a strategy called Gaslighting. Those who spoke out against Hitler and his policies faced intimidation and threats from the Gestapo or imprisonment and in some cases execution. All political parties had been banned. Economic opposition was eliminated as trade unions had been banned. Sadly, many Germans genuinely believed that the Nazi’s were improving Germany.
Step 3: Control The Youth
A third strategy was to control the minds of Germany’s youth, and he did this through the Hitler Youth movement. Hitler’s goal was to control the activities and teachings in classrooms and make them loyal to him. Those within the youth movement were given positions of responsibility and rewarded for their loyalty, and curriculum was biased and supportive of the Nazi narrative.
Step 4: Eliminate Opposition
A fourth strategy was to eliminate the opposition. On June 30, 1934 Hitler authorized a purge of Nazi leaders he feared were too powerful. This night became known the “Night of the Long Knives.” Hitler ordered his elite SS guard to murder hundreds that night who opposed him.
Who Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
In Germany a pastor/theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted the Church to speak out against the war and the atrocities that were taking place in Germany. Yet many church leaders were frightened of the consequences. In 1940, Dietrich was forbidden by the Reich to speak out; he was further required to report regularly to the secret police. Dietrich was deeply distressed that the whole world was falling apart in an orgy of suffering and pain while the Church was strangely impotent, even unconcerned to take a stand.
On September 19, 1941 a decree was issued that required all German Jews to wear a yellow star attached to their clothing. In October 1941, the first gas chambers were installed at Auschwitz. Dietrich felt the Church’s impotence was because of their lack of moral courage. Dietrich – even though he was forbidden to speak – continued to do so in opposition to German atrocities. Norway fell to Germany early in the war, but unlike the pastors in Germany, Norwegian pastors spoke out in opposition. This brought about many arrests, though Norway’s pastors continued strong in their resistance.
Dietrich was later detained and imprisoned for his resistance. In prison, Dietrich declared if the government demanded that Christians sign away their submission to Christ in order to serve the state, then Christians had a responsibility to resist that Government absolutely. Under a biblical view, such a government was a false one in that it was not operating within the sphere God intended. Dietrich was eventually hanged for treason on April 9, 1945 in a concentration camp just two weeks before U.S. soldiers liberated the camp.
Bonhoeffer showed that it is possible to grow in faith through any circumstance, and to take a stand in any situation or dilemma. He was willing to pay the price for his beliefs. I ask American pastors: Are you willing to do the same, or have you been rendered impotent by fear and intimidation? It’s time for the Church to stand up and speak out for what’s right or we will lose the rights given to us by the patriots who lived and died for the freedoms we enjoy today.