Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where Is Bonhoeffer's Witness Today?

In his book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas writes that Bonhoeffer concluded it was "unequivocally the responsibility of the Christian church to help all Jews." Not only was this dramatic. It was revolutionary, because the Lutheran church in Nazi Germany had sold out to the philosophy that the Jews should be excluded from their fellowship because they were not of the Aryan race. At best, those Jews who were baptized Christians might have their own Jewish Christian church.
"Ignoring the protests of Bonhoeffer and other dissenting pastors, in 1933 the Lutheran Church had adopted a set of Aryan clauses. Non-Aryans and those married to non-Aryans were no longer to be ordained or offered positions in the church. 
Bonhoeffer immediately called for all dissenting pastors to resign and refused the parish that had been offered to him. He sent a statement to church leaders declaring that the Aryan clauses were in direct conflict with basic Christian doctrines. When he received no response, Bonhoeffer helped Martin Niemoller form the Pastors’ Emergency League, which eventually grew to 6,000 dissenting pastors and the Confessing church.

Bonhoeffer believed that at some point the church must act against the state to stop it from perpetrating evil like the state's antisemitism and the murder of the mentally and physically handicapped. "This action is permitted only when the church sees its very existence threatened by the state as defined by God. Bonhoeffer added that this condition exists if the state forces the exclusion of baptized Jews from our Christian congregations or in the prohibition of our mission to the Jews."

Such thinking ultimately led Bonhoeffer to participate in a modification of Hitler's Operation Valkyrie. This was the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1943.
"At the end of 1943 the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the Gestapo managed to arrest several Germans involved in plotting to overthrow Adolf Hitler. This included Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Klaus Bonhoeffer, Josef Mueller and Hans Dohnanyi. Others under suspicion like Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Oster were dismissed from office in January, 1944.
Ultimately some 6,000 Germans were executed after the July plot. Bonhoeffer, then 39 years old, was among them. Because Bonhoeffer was considered a possible source of information, he was kept alive for some time after the attempt. Hitler only ordered his execution after defeat for Germany became inevitable. Bonhoeffer was hanged at the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp on April 9, 1945.

All this raises many questions for the modern church in a world still dominated by racial discrimination, violence, hatred, deception and killing. Thank God there are still those willing to join Bonhoeffer in publicly witnessing against such evils.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Vatican Ratlines For Nazis After WW II

Only recently have I learned about the escape routes for Nazis and other fascists at the end of WW II. The word 'ratlines' refers to rats climbing the lines of a sinking sailboat's mast. It would be the last escape route before the ship sunk. So it was for many Nazis. 

I recently read the hard cover edition of  Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, The Nazis, and The Swiss Banks [Paperback] - Head-spinning documentation of how Vatican immunity shielded Nazi war criminals from just punishment--and unwittingly aided the Communist cause. - By Mark Aarons, an Australian expert on Nazi fugitives and John Loftus (The Belarus Secret, 1982), former chief prosecutor of the Justice Department's Nazi War Crimes Unit.

Further online comments include:
  • It is now public knowledge that war criminals  like Klaus Barbie, Adolf Eichmann, Heinrich Mueller, Franz Stangl and a whole list of other war criminals escaped war torn Europe via the Catholic Church. Most of these men escaped through the work of one man, a Roman Catholic Bishop named Alois Hudal, Rector of the Pontificio Santa Maria dell’ Anima. "During the war Hudal served as Commissioner or the Episcopate for German speaking Catholics in Italy, as well as Father Confessor to Rome’s German community." [2] Hudal harbored anti-Semitic feelings and his pro Nazi stance was well known throughout the Catholic community. During Hitler’s rule, Bishop Hudal often spoke about the unity between the Catholic Church and the Nazi government.
  • Ratlines were systems of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe at the end of World War II. These escape routes mainly led toward havens in South America, particularly Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Chile. Other destinations included the United States and perhaps Canada and the Middle East. There were two primary routes: the first went from Germany to Spain, then Argentina; the second from Germany to Rome to Genoa,  then South America; the two routes "developed independently" but eventually came together to collaborate.
  • Pope Paul VI was connected says Haareetz: "It is possible that within a short time a court in the United States will prohibit the publication of the account before us. In the meantime, Haaretz has obtained the testimony given last month by William Gowen, a former intelligence officer in the United States Army, at a federal court in San Francisco. The testimony contains historical and political explosives. It links Giovanni Battista Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI, to the theft of property of Jewish, Serb, Russian, Ukrainian and Roma victims during World War II in Yugoslavia."
I leave you to do your own searching. . . and commenting.