Moody, 2010. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)
The first thing to note about this book is that the subject matter – the Nazi terror – was not all that long ago. People are still alive today who lived through this horrible period in recent history. Yet our memories are so very short, that it seems like just a distant memory.
Thus Erwin Lutzer is to be thanked for refreshing our memories, and reminding us of the lessons we should have learned from this. But sadly it seems we are not learning our lessons. He offers seven key lessons from this period which are well worth taking to heart.
Of course in doing so he is not equating America (his home audience) with Nazi Germany. He simply sees some loose parallels with what happened back then in Germany and what is happening today in America, and so much of the West. Learning the lessons of history is always crucial.
One such lesson is how law, divorced from any transcendent foundation, can be used to empower tyrants and promote gross injustice. If there are no absolute and eternal laws which humans must submit to, then law becomes whatever any dictator or 51 per cent majority claim it should be.
Thus Hitler decreed that Jews were non-persons, and he enacted laws to treat them accordingly. He had already privatised religion in Germany, and morality and law became completely subjective – mere tools of the state. Thus the Nazis could proclaim, “Hitler is the law”.
Of course at the war crimes trials held in Nuremberg, the Nazis simply said they were doing what was legal to do in Germany at the time. But they had to be reminded that simply following orders was not enough, and that there was a law above the law which they all were subservient to.
Today in the West we see the same withering away of the rule of law, to be replaced by positive law and judicial activism. Lutzer reminds us just how much contemporary Western law has been influenced by evolutionary theory and liberal theology, and how law is deteriorating as a result.
He also reminds us of another important lesson: the power of propaganda. The Nazis relied heavily on this, and were able to convince the masses to go along with their cause. Hitler was an expert at this, able to manipulate the crowds and mesmerise the people with hollow rhetoric and clever propaganda.
It could have been even worse: “It is chilling to think of what Hitler could have done if he could have used today’s media to gain followers.” Lutzer looks at how contemporary activists groups have also become experts in using propaganda.
The militant homosexual lobby is a case in point. They have perfected the use of propaganda to move the masses in their direction. He quotes from activists who have written about the effective use of propaganda to advance their cause. He even cites one leader in the movement who said his group had used Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a model for a successful strategy in the uses of lies, propaganda and intimidation.
Lutzer also alerts us to how the use of state-controlled education can be effective in enslaving a people. Hitler of course early on outlawed homeschooling and private schools, insisting on compulsory state education. He knew that this could effectively counter any competing values instilled in children by parents or churches.
Thus state education became a tool of the Nazis to brainwash young children into the Nazi worldview. The purpose of the school was not for general education but for indoctrination. Good education was anything that further served the interests of the Reich.
Of course we see similar things happening in Western education today, with secular humanism the default position of the schools, and political correctness being force fed our children. Increasingly the secular state is seeking to crack down on independent schools and home schooling. Incredibly, German parents today who dare to home school are sent to prison, and their children taken away from them.
But the general lesson about apathy and indifference is perhaps the most important one found in this book, and the best way to discuss it is to simply close with this sobering quote from a German eyewitness, who reflected on why the church basically did nothing:
“I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks.
“We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars! Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we could hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us.
“We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it anymore. But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene.”
This is an important book which deserves a wide reading. It very nicely illustrates the truth of Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Indeed, it is quite revealing that this saying can now be found on the plaque outside of the Auschwitz concentration camp.