By this time last year, I had done quite a bit of blogging from Germany.  This year, I have been here almost two months and really haven’t written much.  The first month involved a great deal of travel around Germany. This month has been a time to settle into Wittenberg.  While I have not written, I have spent a great deal of time reading and reflecting.

Last year’s blogs focused on my travels and observations.  Although I will be writing about those topics, my writing this year will focus more on my internal journeys and observations, as I try to make sense of the world in which we live.

I visited Dachau this summer.  Dachau was the first of the Nazi death camps to be built, and it became the model for all of the other death camps built by the Nazis.  These camps had many names, most of them were nice titles, intended to hide their purpose.  In reality, the only reason these camps existed was for the torture and death of those who disagreed with the Nazis and for those who had been declared “enemies of the state.”  These “enemies of the state”often became victims of ethnic cleansing.

Watching the introductory movie at Dachau, prior to visiting the camp sites, I was brought face to face with two apparently contradictory realities:  the depravity of humankind and the goodness of humankind.  Lutherans might call this an example of simul justus et pecator, describing the baptized as both sinner and saint.

The death camps were filled with torture, as inhumane acts were inflicted  Yet the camps were also filled with wonderful and heroic stories of those who showed kindness and love for others.  The story of Maximilian Kolbe is one example of the this.

Newsletter“Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest, who died as prisoner 16770 in Auschwitz, on August 14, 1941. When a prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the 10 selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry: “My wife! My children! I will never see them again!”  At this, Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to die in his place. His request was granted …”  (http://www.auschwitz.dk/Kolbe.htm)

Later in the summer, I went to the Topography of Terror Museum in Berlin (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/06/topography-terror-nazi-museum-berlin), where a museum sits on the site of the Gestapo/SS headquarters.  This is the place where the death camps were managed and orders given for the destruction of people and places.  Andreas Nachama, director of the museum, says that the stated purpose of the museum is to be able to explore the nature of dictatorships, but also to raise more questions than to give answers.  This was a very hard museum for me. The museum displays documented the step by step approach that Hitler ordered for the destruction of people and buildings in Poland.  The museum also gave detailed descriptions of the Gestapo and how it worked.  The hatred portrayed was overwhelming I actually could not finish it and plan to go back.

Now, when I  go to the media and read about ISSI and Ferguson, MO, I realize that humanity really has not learned from the horrors of the Halocaust.  We still demonize people.  We still label people.  We still kill people in the name of whatever moves us.  We just don’t learn.

And yet, there are those heroic people who stand up to injustice and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  There are those who are led, by love, to bring mercy and compassion to those in need.  I realize that I cannot begin to control those motivated by hatred, but, in the spirit of Maximillian Kolbe, I can stand between the innocent and those who do evil by living the presence of Christ’s love.


1) We are called to see each person as Christ.  Whether it is the victim or the perpetrator, we approach as Christ.  Christ named evil for what it was and is.  Read the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus confronts evil each time it appears and shows love and compassion to the one being victimized.  Jesus did not use violence …ever.

2) We are called to strive for peace and to avoid violence.  Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”(Matthew 5:9, NRSV).  Peace  must be our vision, given by the Holy Spirit.  Then we seek steps to move in that direction.  Peace is the gift of the Spirit that allows me to live in peace with God, have peace with myself, and then live in peace with others.

3) We are called to strive to change the rhetoric from that which is inflammatory to that which is conciliatory.

4) We are called to stand firm for justice.  Do not attack.  Stand firm.  Remember these words, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and   to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”(Micah 6: 8, NRSV)

5) We are called to pray to become a non-anxious person, who brings peace by being peace.

Even with these things in mind, I have groups that I demonize and groups that I label.  I have those that I oppress.  And, in reality, I demonize myself at times and even label myself at times.  I turn this hatred inward, as well as outward.  None of these qualities or activities are consistent with what I learn from Jesus.

Thank God for confession and absolution and for the Holy Spirit, that leads the way to love, compassion and forgiveness.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’

John 15.12

Related Posts