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March 4, 2011

Glenn Beck’s comment about Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Filed under: Germany, TV shows — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:24 am

Yesterday, I was watching Glenn Beck on his TV show, when he held up two books that he wants everyone to read.  One book was about Winston Churchill and the other was a new biography of German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, entitled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by New York Times writer Eric Metaxas.

In talking about Bonhoeffer yesterday, Beck said that “Bonhoeffer died before Hitler was killed.”  No, that’s not what happened.  Bonhoeffer was hanged at the Flossenbuerg concentration camp on April 9, 1945 because he was a traitor to his country. Like the other traitors who were involved in the July 20th plot to kill Hitler, Bonhoeffer was allegedly hanged with piano wire, not rope.  Hitler was not killed; he survived the attempt to kill him on July 20, 1944 and committed suicide in his bunker just days before World War II ended.

Before he was sent to Flossenbuerg, Bonhoeffer spent some time in the Buchenwald concentration camp.  At this camp, a sign painted on the wall of the gate house, read “My country, right or wrong” in German.  That sign has since been removed.

I don’t know why the “right or wrong” slogan at Buchenwald was removed, but maybe it was in deference to traitors like Bonhoeffer who did not believe in supporting his country, right or wrong.  The “Jedem das Seine” sign on the iron gate at Buchenwald is still there.  This is usually translated into English as “To Each his Own,” or “Everyone gets what he deserves.”

Beck did an interview with Metaxas in December, 2010. In this interview, Metaxas revealed that Bonhoeffer’s whole family was involved in the plot to kill Hitler. (One of Dietrich’s brothers and two of his brothers-in-law were executed by the Nazis; other family members were imprisoned but survived.)

Metaxas also said that Bonhoeffer’s “best friend” was a Jew who had converted to Christianity and wanted to become a Christian pastor. This was basically the reason that a group of Protestant ministers broke away from the German Protestant Church and started their own church called “the Confessing Church.”  (The Confessing Church allowed converted Jews to become Pastors.)

The Nazis wanted to unite the German churches under the German state; Metaxas pointed out that Germany was a “Christian nation.”  Hitler did not want Jews involved in the Christian Church in Germany.

The Nazis were Fascists and Fascism means a totalitarian state in which the government has total control over everything in the country.  The basic principle in a totalitarian state, whether it is Fascist or Communist, is that everything must be done for the good of the country, not for the good of the individual.  Bonhoeffer wanted the Christian Church in Germany to change for the good of his Jewish friend.

Hitler was a nationalist, not a racist.  He wanted to unite the German people under the concept of “ein Folk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer.”  Hitler wanted the Jews to have their own church and their own country, and he didn’t want the Jews and the Germans to become racially mixed.  The Bonhoeffer family didn’t agree with these principles. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s whole family was against the Nazi principles; his twin sister, Sabine, was married to a Jew.

Bonhoeffer won in the end.  Germany is now a racially mixed, diverse country and converted Jews are welcomed in German churches.

Read my comments about the biography of Bonhoeffer here.

Update, Mar. 5, 2011:

The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer being hung with piano wire might be one of those “Nazi myths and legends.”  Stories of prisoners being hung with piano wire were told to General Eisenhower by the survivors of the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald when he visited the camp on April 12, 1945.

Gallows at the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald

The photo above shows General Dwight D. Eisenhower viewing the gallows at Ohrdruf. Note that there is a short piece of something hanging from the gallows; I can’t tell if it is rope or wire. According to the survivors, prisoners were executed at Ohrdruf by being hung with piano wire, instead of rope.  An identical gallows was found at the Buchenwald main camp, but there were no claims that piano wire was used at the main camp.

Standing to the left of the general, and partially hidden by a pole, is Captain Alois Liethen, a German-American, who was General Eisenhower’s interpreter. The two men on Eisenhower’s right are survivors who are explaining the atrocities committed in the camp. The man on the far left, wearing a jacket and a scarf, is one of the survivors who served as a guide for General Eisenhower and his entourage. General Patton wrote in his memoirs that this guide was “killed by some of the inmates”  the very next day because the guide “was not a prisoner at all, but one of the executioners.”

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