Sunday, July 24, 2016

German Mennonites Supported The Third Reich's Vision Of "Deutschland über alles"

According to numerous sources (see links below) the majority of Mennonites in pre-WWII Germany became caught up in the nationalistic fervor whipped up by Hitler's Nazi Party, as expressed in the slogan "Germany Above All". 

As one example, the following telegram was sent by a group of Mennonites to der Führer on September 10, 1933:

To Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Berlin:

     The Conference of East and West Prussian Mennonites, assembled today in Tiegenhagen, Free State of Danzig, feels deep gratitude for the powerful revival that God has given our nation through your energy, and promises joyful cooperation in the upbuilding of our Fatherland through the power of the Gospel, faithful to the motto of our forefathers: "No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.”

Sixteenth-century church leader Menno Simons, who attached the apostle Paul's "No other foundation" text to each of his writings, would have been aghast.

Undoubtedly Hitler, not much of a religious person himself but grateful for the support of a people he saw as even more purely Aryan than most other Germans (due to their having mostly married among themselves for some centuries), was gratified. At least he took the time to write the following response:

     For your loyalty and your readiness to cooperate in the upbuilding of the German nation, expressed in your letter to me, I express my sincere thanks. —Adolf Hitler

The fear and frenzy the Nazi party engendered, with dire warnings of a threat of communist infiltration and of Jews subverting German values and identity, took the nation by storm. According to historian Dean Taylor, in 1933 the United (Vereinigung) Mennonites stopped asking for special treatment as conscientious objectors from war, and in 1934 dropped the term “nonresistance” from its confession of faith.

The Mennonitisches Blätter, an official Mennonite paper, actively encouraged members to take up military service, and in its May, 1939, issue the editor wrote a glowing tribute to Adolph Hitler on his 50th birthday, according to a March, 2004, article in the Mennonite Life.

As a result of this shift in beliefs and practice, thousands of Mennonites supported the Blitzkrieg and joined the fight against the Allied forces in World War II. Some even took part in the brutalities inflicted in Nazi death camps, though many claimed to be ignorant of all of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. In any case, we have no record of Mennonites speaking out in protest against the Nazi regime.

As a member of a church committed to non-violence even in war time, I have often been asked what I would have done had I been of draft age in the '30's and '40's.

Had I been a German citizen during that time, I hope I would done everything possible to rally people against Hitler's coming to power, and thus have helped prevent the tragedy of the Holocaust and of the deaths of some 50 million people as a result of World War II.

And I may have even quoted Menno Simons himself in doing so, as follows:

...Love compels us to respectfully and humbly show all high officials what the Word of God commands them, how they should rightfully execute their office to the glory and praise of God... to punish the transgressors and protect the good; to judge rightly between a man and his fellows; to do justice to the widows and orphans and to the poor, to rule cities and countries justly by a good policy and administration, not contrary to God’s Word but to the benefit of the common people.

...The regenerated do not go to war, or engage in strife. They are the children of peace, who have beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and they know no war. Since we are conformed to the image of Christ, how then can we kill our enemies with the sword? Spears and swords made of iron we leave to those, alas, who consider human blood and swine’s blood as having well nigh equal value.

Dean Taylor, "Mennonite Nazis: a Lesson From History"

Tim Huber, of Mennonite World Review, for Meetinghouse, describing a workshop entitled, “From Aryanism to Multiculturalism: Mennonite Ethnicity and German Nationalism, 1871 to Today”, presented at Mennonite World Conference, 2015.

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