Friday, November 27, 2015

A few years ago, my wife and I went to Germany to visit our son--who was living in Munich at the time. Munich is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. It is filled with amazing architecture and ancient, ornate Catholic and Protestant cathedrals. And every now and then one comes upon a plaque or a monument indicating where a synagogue or Jewish business once stood, or commemorating a shameful event such as Kristallnacht. These serve as reminders that the city's tranquil beauty and Christian history did not prevent it from becoming the epicenter of one of the greatest evils perpetrated in the history of humankind.

Outside of Munich is the Dachau concentration camp--still intact and open as a museum and memorial site. It is difficult to reconcile the horrors that happened there with the idyllic countryside in which the camp sits. We learned that Dachau was the Nazi's prototype concentration camp and that the first prisoners there were political opponents and people who spoke out against the Nazis: journalists, activists, artists, some religious leaders, Quakers, etc. Also sent to Dachau initially were gay men, Jehovah's Witnesses and immigrants who had been rounded up. The camp was conceived and developed by Munich's Chief of Police, Heinrich Himmler. Later the camp swelled with Jews and had to be expanded. It was a place of brutal torture, summary execution and hideous medical experiments. By the end of WWII, tens of thousands had died there.

What was seared into my soul upon that visit was the juxtaposition between the civility of Munich and the barbarity of Dachau. The people of a deeply religious city--festooned with places of worship--laid the groundwork for the Holocaust. And those who spoke out in the early days--especially those religious leaders--were far too few.

And now I see politicians and candidates for the Presidency of this country who speak of building walls, of rounding up and deporting millions (in cattle cars, I assume), of creating registries and databases and special ID cards for Muslims, of refusing to acknowledge the laws of the land regarding gay rights, who are antagonistic to journalists, who compare refugees to "rabid dogs," who denigrate minorities (including people with disabilities), and who blithely advocate for military solutions to the world's problems. And, most troubling to me, these same politicians and candidates receive varying degrees of support--actively vocal or tacitly silent--from Christians who by this point in history ought to know better. 

Maybe I'm just being hypersensitive. Maybe not.


Blogger Horseman Bree said...

You're not being oversensitive. All empires die by collapse from within. Some do it more consciously and therefore more quickly.

And "free will" means we are free to avoid learning from the past, or to actively deny that the past ever happened.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Horseman Bree said...

The following link describes a "Mystery Worshipper" view of a cathedral in Spain. You may want to read his description of what happened after the service, which seems to be parallel to your ponderings above.

2:10 PM  

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