Preaching in Hitler's Shadow: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich.
Preaching in Hitler's Shadow: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich. Edited by Dean G. Stroud. Grand Rapids, Ml: Eerdmans, 2013. Pp. xiii + 203. $20.
The centennial anniversary of World War I has brought fresh awareness of how the religious nationalisms of the fighting powers fueled the carnage and devastated Christian faith in its wake. The conflict of 1914 to 1918 opened the gates of Europe to ideological frenzies that were to bring even greater destruction. Stroud's volume is a fine, moving collection of German sermons that witness both to the evangelical strength of some preaching during the Nazi years and to the risks that preachers were willing to run.
The book's very helpful introduction informs the reader of the specific force of the Christian rhetoric of the day as, for example, when christological formulations emphasized Jesus as the "authentic Fiihrer." Courageous claims are to be encountered in this volume. On the very day of Germany's attack on the Soviet Union, Rudolf Bultmann declared, "Who feels bound today by Christian morality? We all know that Germany today is no longer a Christian country, that church life is only a remnant, and that many wish and hope that even this remnant will disappear" (149). Still, scattered affirmations of Jesus as a Jew resound; and Karl Barth, for one, proclaimed that message during Hitler's first year in power: "Christ belongs to the people (Volk) of Israel. This people's blood was in his veins, the very blood of God's Son" (68).
Denunciation of the murder of the disabled is found in the sermons of Gerhard Ebeling and of Clemens August von Galen, the only Catholic included in this volume. While such prominent Protestant figures as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller join Barth and Bultmann, I was most touched by a sermon of a pastor unknown to me, Julius von Jan, who called for public repentance after the burning of the synagogues in November 1938. For him the admission of sin was an act of thanksgiving: this "confession of guilt of which people think they are not permitted to speak, has been at least for me today like the casting off of a great burden. Praise God!" (114). As a consequence, von Jan was beaten mercilessly by Nazi thugs and his health ruined, but in the spiritual prison of Nazi Germany he became free.
James Bernauer, S.J.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2014|
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