About 3,000 of the approximately 18,000 Protestant pastors in Germany in the 1930s openly supported Adolf Hitler, and about the same number ended up opposing his tyrannical rule.
But it was the vast majority of ministers, about 12,000, who chose to remain silent – arguing it wasn’t their place to engage in politics – who enabled the Nazis to “crush the heroic 3,000” who stood up against the dictator, points out Eric Metaxas in his new book “Letter to the American Church.”
“That is the nightmare – that they thought it would be safe,” Metaxas said in an interview with James Robison on the “LIFE Today” television program.
The pastors, Metaxas said, decided: “We won’t take a position. We don’t want to be political. We’ll just keep our nose down, preach our little stuff on Sunday morning, and when we leave this building, we’re going to bow to the authority of the state.”
Metaxas contends the American church today mirrors the silence of the German church before the Holocaust.
If church leaders, he said, don’t learn the lesson of the 1930s, “we are going down precisely the same path.”
“And people say, ‘I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it.’ Trust me when I say that the Germans didn’t believe that that future was even possible. But it happened, and we are no different than the Germans,” he said.
Metaxas is the author of a bestselling book about German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who boldly opposed the Nazi regime and was executed for participating in the famous “Operation Valkyrie” plot to assassinate Hitler.
“Letter to the American Church, Metaxas explained to Robison, arose from his realization that “the silence of the church in Germany that led to the satanic evil of the Nazis and the Holocaust is exactly the same as the silence of the church in America today.”
Without question, he said, that silence will lead the nation “to horror unimaginable, unless we repent, unless we cease being silent.”
“I cannot think of a more urgent message,” he said. “I beg people, I beg people to take what I am saying in this book seriously, because, of course, it’s not me talking.”
He said he humbly posits that God is trying to tell the American church exactly what he told the German church through Bonhoeffer.
Metaxas, on his radio show, recently had a discussion with author and journalist Naomi Wolf in which they compared the behavior of the nation’s ruling educated class during the pandemic to the passiveness of Germany’s highly civilized and educated population in the 1930s.
Wolf, who was in Metaxas’ graduating class at Yale, said their classmates “are the worst offenders.”
“Right now it’s really red state and purple state America, and working people who are being super brave and telling their neighbors, trying to resist – the police officers, the firefighters, taking action against these coercive mandates, trying to bring some truth to the discussion,” said Wolf, a Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate from Oxford University who was a political consultant for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Wolf’s grandmother lost nine siblings in the Holocaust.
“It’s our classmates, our cultural demographic, if you like, who are colluding, overwhelmingly – and our institutions,” she said.